Thursday, December 17, 2009

Google Wave Interview by Small Stories

This interview was conducted via Google Wave and is being cross-posted here from

Quick plug: Google Wave has a lot of exciting potential uses for indie authors.  If you're on it and want to hit me up, I'm moxiemezcal [at]  And if you're not on it yet but are interested, I have a few invites.

Is this Moxie Mezcal?
Moxie Mezcal Interview
by Small Stories

Can you tell us about your writing for readers who may be unfamiliar with your work?

I've dubbed what I write "punk-as-fuck guerrilla fiction" - and at this point I'm not sure if that's meant to be taken seriously or not. But I guess what it means is that there's a certain attitude I'm trying to achieve, a sense of immediacy - I have stories that I want to tell, and I'm going to do it by any means necessary and not worry about making them "commercial" or "accessible" or even "serious literature". Which on the one hand I guess you could call lazy, but I come from an indie, DIY mindset where making shit look slick and pretty is all well and good, but what really matters is content. I mean, look at The Cramps' "Songs the Lord Taught Us" - it sounds like it was taped on a busted cassette recorder with a dying battery that someone just absent-mindedly left turned on in the middle of the studio, and it's still one of the most intense fucking albums ever.

But getting back to my stuff, if I had to distill the essence of my stories into a couple tidbits, it'd go like this: First, I like to write stories where things happen - people fight, fuck, drink, steal, solve mysteries, and just generally get up to shenanigans. I'm not really interested in the kind of navel-gazing and pointless florid descriptions that signify "serious literature".

You Are Under Surveillance Right Now
Second, I'm fascinated by technology, particularly by the way it's causing an intersection between celebrity-YouTube-web2.0 culture and the surveillance-police-state mentality. It's like, once you get accustomed to broadcasting every inconsequential detail of your existence, surveillance cameras don't seem so bad. In fact, in a way it's an extension of that celebrity culture, it validates our existence, turns everyone into a star. Meanwhile the systems of control tighten around our collective necks. There are a lot of video cameras in my stories.

And third, I like writing about people who exist somehow on the fringes of society or mainstream culture. Personally, I've never felt entirely comfortable fitting into the mainstream, so I'm interested in people who operate on the outside of things, either by choice or because they've been ostracized, or maybe they just wake up one day and realize they've gradually slipped through the cracks.

Would you agree that the Internet has changed everything for the non-mainstream writer. ie: they now have a cheaply accessible audience, which was almost impossible to find before without a lucky break in the publishing industry?

Absolutely, this is a very exciting time for the independent author. The internet has gone a long way to democratizing content - blogs are breaking major stories before the supposedly "established" news media, and last year even the fucking Macy's Thanksgiving parade did a rickroll.

The other development that is propelling a lot of writers specifically to take a stab at independent e-publishing is the emergence of e-readers. Because to be honest, reading for any prolonged period of time off a back-lit screen is a headache, so while that's fine for short stories, I could never deal with reading a full-length novel off a computer. But I love my Sony Pocket with its sexy little gray screen, and I've read more books in the past few months of owning it than I used to read in a year on paper.

Couple that with Feedbooks and Smashwords, sites that allow any author with only the smallest modicum of tech savvy to produce decent ebook files, and the threshold for entry is ridiculously low. Which some people will moan and hiss about, complaining that there's no editorial control or the sentences end in fucking prepositions or whatever. But honestly, these are the types of people who get off on being controlled, who are so used to the mainstream arbiters of taste telling them what to like and what's shit that they probably don't even have actual opinions of their own anymore.

Me, I prefer to see it like punk rock. Sure, you can't really carry a tune, and yeah, your guitar is only held together with duct tape and a prayer - but you're raw, you're honest, you're passionate, and fuck-it-all you've got something to say and you're going to say it as loudly as you can.

Perhaps the fiction 'market' itself has changed, what people want to buy and read? I'm my experience the middle market has hollowed out. Now it cuts from post-chick lit to worthy literature, something like the late 70's music scene going from pop to 'serious' prog rock without anything in-between ... when you walk into a book store everything feels plastic and over-marketed, writers are talking about their careers and people only listen to the cash register? It's all very competent and slick but there are less and less off-the-wall characters sitting behind their writing machines, trying to say something? Could we be waiting for something fresh, a kind of literary-punk?

The problem is that paper publishing (I call them the tree-killers) is a sinking ship - in all forms, fiction, news, whatever. So what naturally happens is these treekillers stop taking chances, they only want to publish the kind of warmed-over, puerile gruel that they know will sell. So the Dan Browns and the Stephanie Meyers superstars will always have a place, as will the tell-all celeb bios and formulaic genre work.

But for anything that's edgy or experimental, it's going to get increasingly harder. Because as the audience for prose fiction shrinks, it's going to reach the point where it's just not financially feasible to publish difficult work with limited commercial value. Killing trees is expensive, running a printing press is expensive, shipping is fucking insanely expensive, and running a bricks-and-mortar bookstore - well just ask Borders how that's working out.

But the good news is that e-publishing is easy and nearly free - and most importantly, that audience that's hungry for novels that are challenging and audacious and fresh and artistic hasn't gone away. So if the treekillers don't want them, fuck 'em - they can come play in Mox's front yard.

Do we expect too much from writers? They are no longer counter-culture role models or political heroes or, indeed, artists ... they are more like business people and celebrities. I suppose we live in a more visual culture and many people who would have been producing the great American novel are working in TV and writing filmscripts. How do you see the role of the writer today?

Christ, that's a good question. Definitely, the old heroes of the counter culture are nearly extinct. Thompson finally blew his brains out and RA Wilson has moved on to the next plane. Those were the last two I really gave a shit about, I think. And there's not much in the new crop to replace them. I mean, you've got Palahniuk, but he's an anomaly - if the Fight Club film hadn't done so well in the after-market, I'm sure New York would have gotten sick of his bullshit years ago, what with his ripping colons out of assholes and what-not. Nick Cave, too - Bunny Munro was brilliant, but he's a rock star first, and who doesn't love rock stars? True, TV and film and music have tapped the well in terms of talent. Grant Morrison is the best we've got as an uber-counter-culture icon, but then he's not even prose, he's comics (ahem, graphic novels, sorry).

Shit, maybe I'm in the wrong medium.

All that aside, though, seriously, if I had to take a shot at defining the role of the writer today, I'd say that people will always want to tell stories, and they'll want to be told stories. It's primal, it goes back to cave men and shit. Sometimes they want stories that help them escape - tell them about an adventure or make them laugh or make them dream of true love. But then other times people need stories that do more, that challenge them, make them analyze who they are, make them feel uncomfortable and question their basic prejudices and assumptions. And the two aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but the point is, you'll always need the counter culture writers, the shit-stirrers.

One of the interesting things we've seen with the proliferation of new media (web videos, blogs, satellite radio, even the millions of new cable TV channels) is the fractilization of audience - there are niches within niches. You no longer have three TV channels so everyone's watching the same shows. Which is liberating as an artist, because it means success doesn't necessarily have to be measured by ubiquitous mainstream penetration. Instead, it's a question of finding your niche, building an audience that connects with your work on a genuine level, whatever the size.

There's so much history and social status associated with being conventionally published by a good house, the trade hardback, national newspaper reviews, book signings and so on. Even though for most writers they never experience this world, how does someone writing digital fiction get taken as seriously and hope to achieve anything like the same kudos?

Well, the hard honest truth is that very few if any indie authors are ever going land national newspaper reviews and international renown and film adaptation deals and all that. I think the best approach is to have realistic expectations and do as much as you can within your own sphere of influence to build an audience.

For instance, you don't need a publisher to do a reading or a signing. Just go to your local cafe's open mic night, or connect with some local musicians and see if they'd be interested in combining music with spoken word and other types of performance art, or find an art gallery and see if they're interested in having spoken word at their next opening reception. Make connections. Meet people. That's what art's about - not giant fucking hardcover monstrosities.

And while we're on the subject - I'm going on record as saying I hate hardcovers. I mean, sure there's probably some archival value to it, and maybe you need a sturdier binding for something like the Oxford English Dictionary, but other than it - there's no reason you're making me pay $30 for the fucking hardcover for new releases. Just give me the cheap paperback and the ebook right away, you godless-fucking-swine.

Do you think being a digital writer is a first step towards getting into print or do you see it as an end in itself?

I think to some people it is, but personally, to me the "real" product is the e-book. Sure, at some point I think I'll print some copies on dead trees and try to sell those indie DIY-style, but I don't expect to sell that many, it's mostly only for a few people I know who still complain about "liking the feel of a real book" whatever that means.

I don't think a serious publishing house would ever reach the depths of either self-loathing or crippling lunacy to want to sign me, so I don't really have that on my radar as a goal. And frankly, I don't feel like it's necessary for me to feel validated as an artist. My ego is big enough that it takes actually very little validation for me to feel like a superhero.

People talk a lot about declining attention spans on the Internet. Do you write differently knowing it's going to be read on a computer screen or iPhone?

This is something I find really interesting, particularly because I think this is the way things will eventually go, and I fear I may on the back-ass tail of this trend.

Yes, I think the more people read on screens - especially mobile devices - the more of an audience there will be for short fiction or even shorter formats - flash fiction, micro fiction, etc. Without sounding too much like hollow praise or kissing the interviewer's ass, I think this is something you do exceptionally well, along with Nick Name and a few others.

The problem is that flash fiction is ridiculously easy to do, but at the same time ridiculously hard to do well. I'm a dinosaur in that respect, I still like to ramble on for pages and pages, and I tend to think in terms of more traditional story structure.

The major project I'm working on, the thing I've been working on for the last year or so, is a novel. A real, honest-to-goodness, bloated, overwrought, self-indulgent novel. I'm trying to think of ways to break it down to be more mobile-friendly, possibly serializing it in four or five smaller chunks, but still, they'd be chunks of 40-50 pages, hardly flash.

While working on the novel, I've written a few short stories, mostly as diversions or stylistic experiments, but a few of those I've liked enough to release as e-book singles. I think that's really the ideal format for me now - single stand-alone stories, 20-40 pages, still bloated and self-indulgent, but at least they could be read in a single (extended) sitting.

In the future I want to experiment with remixing and repackaging content, taking chunks of my shorts that could be repurposed into a decent stand-alone flash, much in the same way you'd pick and excerpt for a reading. One of my singles, "Making Dylan Maxwell" was an early experiment at this - basically, I took chunks from my novel that introduce the main antagonist and remixed them with a little new content to form a cohesive short.

The trick to do this thing well is you can't treat it as a sample or tease - you have to make it a real, stand alone experience that's satisfying to the reader even if they don't continue on to read the full source work.

Are your influences literary or from other areas such as film and music?

My influences are all over the spectrum - literature (PK Dick, Chandler, Borges, Palahniuk), film (Lynch, Aronofsky, Gregg Araki), music (christ, too many to name), comics (Alan Moore, Grant Morrison), even the occult (big ups to Crowley, crazy pervert that he is).

Also, drugs and alcohol have probably been a huge influence on my work. I mean, I'm pretty clean now, but there's a history.

What techniques do you use to create and share your writing on the Internet? Do you have any tips for other writers who may be new to this field?

Tip #1 Smashwords and Feedbooks are your friends.

Tip #2 get a web site, make it as easy to navigate as possible, and put anything that's good enough for other people to read on it as free, downloadable content.

Tip #3 get on Twitter, get on Facebook, get on MobileRead forums and goodreads and connect with people who might make up your potential audience.

Tip #4 It's not just about promoting yourself as an independent author, it's about building a independent e-book community. It's not a zero sum game; the more people who read indie e-books in general, the more people will read your indie e-books. Find other authors, read their shit, and talk up the ones you like. Write about them on your blog. Post reviews for them wherever they're listed for public consumption - Amazon and B&N and Sony as well as Feedbooks and Smashwords and goodreads. Customer reviews really are the new great democratizer of literary criticism. Fuck the national print reviews, most people just read the comments on the Amazon page.

when you see this image on a book cover, read it
Are you currently working on any big new projects? Where do you see you and your writing going in five years time?

I'm finishing the last draft of my novel, CONCRETE UNDERGROUND, which I'm very excited about. I know it's the last rewrite because as I work on it, I'm feeling for the first time that it's finally been shaped into the kind of ugly, unsettling monster I wanted it to be. So hopefully after this it'll only be copy-editing, and I'll finally release the bastard.

After that, I have two major projects in mind. One is a novel (or possibly a series of ebook singles, interconnected vignettes). It's a magical-realist love story about coming to terms with death, and I'm sure it will land me on Oprah's reading list.

The next is a series of novels or novellas about a lesbian detective in an alternate history United States where religion has been outlawed. Seriously. It's a hybrid sci-fi/pulp detective story. It'll be my Harry Potter.

That'll keep me busy for at least five years, slacker that I am.


Small Stories Home Page
Download Free E-books by Small Stories on Feedbooks
Interview w/ Name Nick by Small Stories
Interview w/ Jim Hanas by Small Stories
Other Interviews by Small Stories
Small Stories Posterous - iPhone photography

Creative Commons LicenseMoxie Mezcal Interview by Small Stories is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Please feel free to reprint, re-post, excerpt, and share as you like, but please give credit where due to Small Stories.  He did great work on this and is a fantastic interviewer and author.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Review: Tokyo Zero, by Marc Horne (Free-E-Day Fallout #3)

In my last post about the Safe Holiday Guide and my own half-baked Operation Indie Christmas notion (and apologies for my un-PC use of the term Christmas, please feel free to substitute whatever phrase best suits your particular set of superstitions), I talked about giving indie books away as presents.

If you're interested in doing this yourself and are open to suggests, I'd like to recommend Marc Horne's novel Tokyo Zero, which is listed on the Safe Holiday Guide and partly why I was inspired to cook up this scheme in the first place (I have someone in mind who I think would love the book).

If you're interested in sampling the novel yourself, Marc just posted a new edition over at Feedbooks as his contribution to Free-E-Day with a spiffy new cover and an "author's commentary" appendix.  And if you want to gift it, you can buy a paper copy at Amazon and enjoy all the benefits of making commerce with a corporate powerhouse, like "supersaver shipping" and "oneclick buying" and all that good stuff.

Here's a review, 'cause that's how I roll.  And fair warning - this is one of those irritating, pretentious reviews that starts of talking about something else completely unrelated to the matter at hand, but bear with me.

Tokyo Zero by Marc Horne

Back when I was living in Los Angeles, I used to go to this really cool little comic shop in Culver City called Comics Ink.  There was a clerk who worked there - Adam, I think, but memory fails, as that was a lot of drugs and scotch ago - who I heard, on more than one occasion, berate customers by saying: "If you're not reading Powers, then why the hell did you even learn to read?"  Now I didn't necessarily share his enthusiasm for that title specifically, but I always loved the notion that a book might be so good that not reading it is in some way squandering your literacy.

Tokyo Zero is so good that, if you haven't read it, you may in fact be squandering your literacy.

Ostensibly a thriller, it starts off feeling more like a travelogue about a westerner's first observations about Tokyo, then starts cooking with a nice, tight little plot about the planning of a terrorist attack - inspired by Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks in '95.  But the overall structure of the book is like a whirlpool, and soon everything speeds up, frantically and furiously, with crazy shit being tossed at your head around every corner - great big chunks of sci-fi, eastern mysticism, posthumanism, and conspiracy theory.

Seriously, this is the kind of novel that takes you by surprise,  sneaks up on you in a dark alley.  You're plodding along pleasantly, enjoying some adroit observations on Tokyo that deftly straddle the middle ground between hollow reverentialism  and ugly-American criticism, and then BAM - you suddenly realize you're alone in a subway car with a footless cult leader who's telling you the real story behind Judas's betrayal of Jesus.

Because make no mistake about it - this is a novel in every sense of the word.  Characters evolve and develop over time, the plot is advanced gradually in hints and teases, and the book that you finish is not the same book you thought it was when you started reading.  It's the type of story that you have to set aside your 21st Century Web 2.0 micro- nano- attention span for and let the work take its time revealing its many faces to you.

Recommended if You Like...

Marc once described it, tongue-in-cheek, as "Lost in Translation meets Fight Club"; the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking about The Invisibles.  If there's someone on your gift list who likes any of those, you won't go wrong with Tokyo Zero.

And yeah, The Invisibles makes two comic book references in one post - deal with it.

Both old-skool and new-skool covers for Tokyo Zero are copyright Marc Horne and used under Creative Commons license.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Interview with Dan Holloway (Free-E-Day Fallout #2)

Dan Holloway is the mastermind behind the Free-E-Day festival, founding member of the Year Zero Writers collective, indie culture blogger, and author of Songs from the Other Side of the Wall.

I wanted to ask him what he thought about Free-E-Day after the fact, to get his perspective on its success as an event and see what lessons we can take from it moving forward to promote indie culture.

MM: Can you talk a little about how it started and what the goals were?  How did you get the first idea, what if any person or persons made you realize it could actually be pulled off, and what were your real, concrete goals for the event?

DH: It was the stereotypical back of a napkin thing. I had an idea on the bus home - what if every indie writer and musician and artist gave something away not just randomly on their website or through a directory but out and proud and FOR the fans. At first I wanted to call it e-Christmas because of the timing and the presents thing, but I soon realised that would alienate the 90 whatever percent of people who don't care less about Christmas - and the whole point of culture is it's a universal thing. I wanted to get everyone together - wherever they were from. I'd been doing a lot of blogging and arguing about indie culture and whether it was a threat to the mainstream,and so many of the people I came across on both sides had this total Westernised bubble they thought the debate took place in, and I wanted to say "hang on a minute - there are people producing great art in the slums of Sao Paolo - we're all in this together. Let's celebrate everyone." Concrete goal - a starting point for years to come. Idealistic goals - 1. to get a whole world of individuals together and make them - for one day - into the biggest gig on the planet 2. to show people that they don't need the mainstream for brilliance and originality 3. to build communities and resources to help those working outside the mainstream - wherever they are. Hence the development of the web workshops.

MM: From your perspective, was it a success?  Is there a way to quantify how successful?  Did you get what you hoped for in terms of response, participation, downloads, etc?

DH: I expected no one to show. We had 100 contributing participants, 3725 hits on the website plus getting a top 10 in the bookbuzzr charts with the brochure. Everyone I've spoken to got some downloads, several got proper spikes. Lots of people clicked through from the website and more, from word of mouth, from twitter (though that's unquantifiable). Most of all, people wrote about the event (see the Across the Web page), and there was so much enthusiasm - and I got e-mails from loads of strangers, and participation in the workshops from some great people who put in a huge effort to give detailed, helpful info. I can't begin to describe how excited I am by the response.

MM: From where I stood (virtually speaking of course) it seemed like there was an awful lot of nuts-and-bolts work that had to get done for this thing, and it looked like you were shouldering it all more-or-less solo, bless your heart.  Can you talk a little about the actual nitty gritty of what it took to put this together, how much you did yourself versus people pitching in, and any lessons learned?

DH: I think the first year with something like this it's always one person doing it out of a shed. The main problem has been the tech. I have an old PC and very little software - so putting the brochure together has - well, it's taught me a lot about formatting! Putting it together has mainly been a question of being loud, enthusiastic, and cheeky - those three qualities will get you a lot further in most things than talent or experience. The website is simply a free wordpress site but it does everything I need - one of the things I was crystal clear about was that I wasn't going to host material - I'm an administrator by day job (most of my job is events management, which helped!), and I do too many legal risk assessments to chance that - all it takes is one person to plagiarise their content or have something defamatory or stuffed with a virus and it would bring the whole thing down. I have no artistic talent but I'm OK at design, so I love the logo even though it's really shoddy (it's a scan of something I did with a felt pen). I've been able to play off the "homemade" nature of indie. But next year we've got a lovely shiny shiny one courtesy Lawrence Thomas, who has kept the design but polished it up. The main help I had was from everyone who participated or blogged about the event or got behind it in any way. I'd like to mention by name in terms of practicalities Nikki Loy, who put together Free-e-day live, and Vikram and Freya from Bookbuzzr who held my hand through the scary technical bits.

MM: What was the most challenging or difficult thing you encountered putting this together?  Were there any surprises?

DH: The most difficult thing was the brochure. I put it together as a Word document and converted to pdf. People naturally sent their work in in every format under the sun, and it wasn't always possible to paste it in. I was a regular with Zamzar, and I soon learned that the most common cause of formatting issues was not embedding font, so I learned a lot. Of course with better tech it would have been a breeze - but I'm a broke creative like everyone else. This was put together with 100% no expenditure. The surprise - that people were as enthusiastic about the idea as I was.

MM: Are there plans to do something like this again - either as a recurring annual Free-E-Day, or doing something similar but under a different guise or with a different focus?

DH: This will be an annual event. I've already had people e-mail me to say they want to put on live events next December 1st and can they come under the Free-e-day umbrella. I will have a whole year to plan it, and now there's one successful event under the belt, it will make it easier to get media coverage. I'd love to see more people take part as contributors - and more people downloading. For the rest of the year I'll keep the website active. The webchats were always meant to be the basis for permanent resources, so I'll be building on the "making money outside the mainstream" and "DIY Workshop" sessions. I'll also keep the blog at the front rolling discovering exciting new indie creativity. In the "curatorship" or "gatekeeping" arguments currently raging, I've often said I'd like to devote an hour a week to finding something amazing I never knew existed - a site or an author or band or artist or craft - and bring it to a wider audience. I already do something similar with "The View From the Shoe" on my personal blog but I'd like to do it on a wider platform & this is perfect.

MM: What I found most interesting about Free-E-Day when I first heard of it was the fact that it was going to encompass musicians and visual artists in addition to writers - I think you referred to it in one chat as the "cross-pollination" of arts.  Was this part of the design from the beginning, or an afterthought?  What gave you the idea in the first place, and how critical did it turn out to be in shaping Free-E-Day?  Were there pros and cons, in terms of casting a wide net versus losing a certain focus for audience or marketing?  Do you have plans to pursue future cross-pollinations?

DH: No, this was always the aim. I'm a writer but only because I'm tone deaf and can't draw. I write about music and art - in my fiction, and in the music articles I write for The Indie Handbook. I've always seen culture as culture, whatever form. For my own live gigs as a writer I invite musicians. I think drawing distinctions is a bit daft. I know more writers than musicians and artists because I am one, but I want more musicians and artists for next year. Those musicians who have been on board have been really supportive so I'm hopeful - and we had a great art exhibition at Free-e-day live. And you only have to look at the brochure to see the art/literature crossover.

Future plans in addition to Free-e-day? Am I allowed to plug? If so, I'll say a brief bit about Year Zero Writers (, the collective I'm part of. We'll be taking our next anthology, Thirteen Shadows Before Sunrise, on tour just like an album, with gigs featuring invited bands and T-shirts by our in house artist Sarah E Melville. There will also be video - one of Penny Goring's stories, Temporary Passport was picked up off the site by an animator who's making it into an adult animation. That'll be part of the show. At Year Zero we're kind of a cross between Andy's Factory and the Left Bank - only largely virtual. We're writers, but that's really a very tenuous boundary - we just want to give people a great experience and see what we can do with art.

MM: There was an issue raised in one of the chats that the problem with using the internet to market indie art is that there's a tendency to make yourself believe you have more of an audience than really exists.  On the one hand, just because some you had 100 page views, it doesn't mean 100 people actually read your book.  On the other hand, you can have a small, insular group (say ebook writers) thinking that they're putting all this great work out, but the only ones reading are each other plus maybe a handful of friends and family.  Now this is getting long and rambling, so I'm going to break it off into two parts:

First, do you think that Free-E-Day was successful in broadening its reach to the "average" reader/listener/consumer and exposing them to indie art they hadn't heard of before?  Or were the 100-or-so people who submitted work the same 100-or-so people who downloaded?  What did you do to help expand the audience reached?

DH: To the specific question - I have no idea. I can only go by a google search and what I'm told. And discussions I've found on various forums. What I CAN say is there's a network of people now very few of whom I knew beforehand. And that can build media and so on. I think a problem indie people have in general is expecting things to happen now. And without going totally Morrissey, these things take time. With my personal career, I expect it to be at least five books in before I make any splash - but I expect always to be growing a following. I think too many people play one gig say no one turned up and quit. Think if a band did that - they'd be laughed out of town. Most bands I know play hundreds of gigs before they get the owner to turn up to see what his dog's doing down the pub, let alone get thousands of downloads. But writers tend to give up if they fail to sell loads of their first book. I have a terrible feeling the reason the stats for indie projects seem so poor is because people don't persist.

MM: Okay, second part, do you think that there are particular challenges faced by online or e-format art in gaining new readers that old-school physical art does better?  For instance, do you think word-of-mouth is easier when you have a physical book or zine or CD to pass off to your friend as opposed to a digital download?    Is someone who picks up a physical object necessarily more engaged in the work than someone who clicks a link?

DH: Free-e-day isn't actually about e-art. The electronic part was simply a way 1, to make the global aspect possible and 2. to allow creatives to give something away without it costing them an arm and a leg. And there's no way as a writer I'd limit myself to ebooks. My primary means of building word of mouth is live reading. And it works - every time I read people are surprised - they come for the music and end up liking the writers better. And there are T-shirts, and free pamphlets - and I'd like to do something like bookcrossing. I think people who go the e-only route will find it hard. Do people buy into a physical object more? To me that sounds like a crooked antiques salesman telling us about patina.  In terms of word of mouth - I think a physical object makes it easier for people to tell one friend.  An e-object makes it easier for them to tell 100. I think the answer has to be in trying lots of things and seeing what works for you, then doing more of that and still trying new things as well. Stay absolutely true to your audience, but be an absolute floosy with the mechanics.

MM: Taking a step back from Free-E-Day the project for a second, I'm actually curious on your experience of the whole thing as Dan Holloway, writer.  Did you personally get some exposure for your own work?  How does Free-E-Day fit into the larger goals you have in terms of building your own online and offline presence?  Are you trying to build a fanbase, go pro, conquer the world?  If so, how's it going?

DH: Interesting. I deliberately pulled back personally and with Year Zero on the site (I mentioned in the very early days the event was hosted by Year Zero - a friend said that sounded like a plug, and she was right)- I hope there's nothing that reads like a plug. On the other hand I'd like to have some kind of a presence in the wider web as someone who's supportive of the indie cause, but only because that means I can do more - I have no money so reputation is what I can build and offer. every day I come across great talents and want to do something for them - if putting my name behind them, even just by having a couple of thousand followers on twitter, helps in any way, that's great.

I'm also utterly sick of a lot of people who claim to be for the cause and then it's all about them, or it's about monetising the product. I want to bring the culture-loving public and the very best culture together. To make sure that happens I need a presence.

What am I aiming for personally? Well I would like to earn a living from writing so I can do more of it, of course. I DO think I'm good at what I do, and that there are enough fans out there willing to pay that I could make a living. What confidence in my ability as a writer and a passion for culture do mean is that I can trust the audience. So the only real goal I have is putting great culture in front of the public and making sure mine's as visible as anyone else's. If it is, they'll buy in. If they don't buy in, why should I make a living at someone else's expense? The upshot of that is that I see culture as a non-zero-sum game. What we need to do is get people interested in reading, or in art, and show them the wealth of stuff out there, and trust them to know what they like and what they don't. I can do that through Free-e-day in a largish but relatively unfocused way. I can do it more focused through Year Zero, bringing great contemporary, exciting fiction to people, and stimulating debate.

I do want to use this question to make a semi-political point. There are two kinds of people in this debate who make me utterly sick and, frankly, furious. There are people inside the establishment who resent those outside trying things like giving stuff away for free in case it takes their jobs away - especially the people who claim they are sticking up for writers. well i've got news for them - I'm a writer and I can stick up for myself. And if their work is better than mine what have they got to be worried about, and if it's not then why the hell should they have a job doing it when I don't just because they're in a position to spout this kind of protectionist bs. The second kind, who makes me more angry because technically they're on "my side" so they're tarring me with their brush are the "help me I'm Indie" brigade. These are the people who give each other glowing reviews on Amazon (yes, I've done it for friends whose work I love in the past but I don't any more because I think it sends the wrong message). The kind who want others to big up their book because it's indie. Well, sorry - I'll big up your book if it's any good. And if it's not why should you get more readers just because you're Indie? I want to bring Indie culture and the public together so people can discover great work wherever it comes from. There's nothing cool about bigging up crap.

MM: Taking another step back, talk about Year Zero.  How does it fit in with Free-E-Day - obviously the two are separate entities, but do they dovetail together in any way, in terms of goals or approach?  Also, tell me a little more about how the collective came into existence, and why, and have the goals or your conception of what it is changed at all as it's grown and come into fruition?

DH: Well, I've probably answered most of that already. We started out as a group of people writing literary fiction who were fed up of being told we'd get published if only we were a little more commercial. So we made a place where we could write what we wanted to write. "Uncut prose" is basically what we stand for. Not, of course, meaning unedited, but meaning edited the way we want and not someone else. We originally thought it would be good to get together and market our self-published novels together, but we've grown into more than that. Now we have a blog with daily new fiction and weekly articles, we have started asking the same questions, and have become some kind of, I don't know if you'd call it a mini-movement or what. What we are is a group of people who want to do something new and see what's possible with prose, and write the very best we can. And whereas our first anthology, Brief Ojects of Beauty and Despair, was just a sampler, our second, Thirteen Shadows Waiting for Sunrise, is very much themed, around the subject of "writing pain". It feels like we're in a middle of one of those moments where people with individual aspirations and ambitions are brought together for however long and for that time live and breathe and share together and, without getting Precious Moments, it's quite magical and almost unreal. The 13 Shadows live events are going to be something very special.

Of course, we're all interested in the future of publishing debates going on, and many of us blog ferociously about it (especially Jenn). But as a group we don't talk about it. We're not interested in defending our position. There's nothing to defend. We do what we do and we're damn proud of it, and people will either like it or they won't.

Operation: Indie Christmas (Free-E-Day Fallout #1)

Free-E-Day Fallout

December 1st came and went, leaving in its wake a formidable backlog of reading material on my Sony Pocket, and - perhaps more significantly - a flurry of new ideas bouncing around my head thanks to the webchat discussions.

(Side Note: The discussion comments are still viewable on the Free-E-Day blog, and many of the giveaways are still available.  So even if you missed out on Dec 1, it's still worth a click.)

One of the topics that I found most relevant was the limitations of online marketing and promotion.  The question is this: giving the ethereal nature of web content, how can you really be sure your work is reaching interested readers - particularly when you consider that page view do not always equal downloads, downloads do not always mean people are actually reading it, and social networking friends/followers aren't necessarily readers?

PD Allen drew an interesting parallel to activist groups that think they're doing a lot of great work and making an impact, but they're so insular that no one really knows about them but their handful of own members.  It resonated with me given my own experiences with political organizing/instigation (back before I became a sellout).

His comments and others' got me thinking about my own online marketing.  I mean, I see the traffic stats from my website and the download counters on Feedbooks and Smashwords, but are people really reading this shit?  Am I doing enough to reach living, breathing readers?  Or is my work only reaching a small handful of other indie writers (who have been incredibly supportive and inspiring and helpful)?  Did anyone come to Free-E-Day, not as a contributor who also picked up others' stuff to show support, but solely as a consumer, just the average reader/listener looking to find something new?

Also, if this is indeed a problem, how much of it is specific to the limitations of online/e-format art?  Oli Johns had some interesting things to say about the success he's had with Gupter Puncher Magazine and made the point that word-of-mouth is easier in the real world than it is online because you've got something physical - be it a book or CD or 45 or zine - that you can pass of to your friend, rather than just hoping they click on a link.

Now, I'm of two minds about this - I agree up to a point, but I also think people are becoming more accustomed to passing art on electronically.  For instance, I regularly trade music with friends through flash thumbdrives (fuck the RIAA).  But for a large portion of people, a book is still a bunch of paper, music is disc they can hold in their hands, and they're far more likely to try out an indie artist when they see a living, breathing person behind a merch table at a performance, reading, or exhibition.

Certainly I think there's more I could do to market myself in the "real world".  But it's also not just about me.  I think I'm pretty realistic when it comes to my own limitations as a writer and the selective appeal my writing has; at the same time, however, I'm becoming more and more invested in promoting the work of other indie authors.

"It's not about promoting yourself as a single independent e-book author.  It's about creating a thriving independent e-book community."  I wrote that, a couple posts back.  And as cheesy as it is, I actually believe it.

And then I realized that we have the perfect opportunity this month for introducing friends and family to indie art using those old fashioned paper-and-glue books and hard plastic CDs.

It's called Christmas.

Operation Indie Christmas

The idea is simple:  You're going to buy people gifts anyways, and a good portion of gifts will be books/CDs/DVDs.  But instead of just buying a bunch of bland corporate crap, why not throw in a couple books from indie authors?  Your money goes to a more deserving source, and the recipient gets introduced to a great new artists, and now has a physical object that they hopefully can lend and share with others.

Credit where credit is due, the idea really came from MCM, who created the Safe Holiday Guide, is a listing of books, music, and film released under Creative Commons licenses that are also available in a physical, purchasable, and giftable format.

MCM's guide lists plenty of deserving works to pick from (including Marc Horne's outstanding Tokyo Zero) but you're by no means limited to stopping there.  Plenty of other indie writers have books available from Amazon or print-on-demand sites like Lulu.  Did you like Free-E-Day?  Show some love and order someone a copy of Dan Holloway's Songs from the Other Side of the Wall.

Or Oli John's Benny Platonov.  Or MCM's The Vector.  Or Marc Nash's A, B & E.  Whoever the bookworm on your gift list is, there's sure to be an indie writer to fit their tastes.

Operation Indie Christmas: Spread the word, show some love.

Shameless Self Promotion

In deference to the public's lingering taste for dead tree pulp, I've caved in an made a selection of my shorts available as a print-on-demand release. 

I called it the TreeKiller Sampler.

As fair warning to potential buyers, I decided to format the thing to look as little like a legitimate book as possible, lest anyone mistake it for a serious literary work.  It's a big, comic book-sized, saddle-stitched monstrosity from my Cafe Press store, and it reeks with the sickly-sweet stench of deforestation.

If you have anyone on your Christmas gift list who's been particularly naughty this year,  I humbly submit it for your consideration.  It's the literary equivalent of a lump of coal in your stocking.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Free-E-Day Extra: 'FAKE' Author Commentary

As my contribution to Free-E-Day (December 1), I've released two new e-book singles.  Additionally, I thought I'd throw in a little blog bonus, a behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of one of my free-e-day stories, Fake.

Before we get to that, however, I'd encourage everyone to take a look at the Free-E-Day blog for a complete listing of all the free art, literature, and music being offered today, as well as web chats about various aspects of DIY indie culture.

Also, I'd like to take a second to send a big shout out to Dan Holloway for organizing Free-E-Day.  Dan, in addition to being a die-hard evangelist for independent art, is a tremendous writer in his own right.  His novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is available for free from Smashwords, or you can buy the paper-and-glue version from Lulu (a perfect Christmas gift for someone you want to introduce to independent literature).

As a final note, the commentary below assumes that you already read the story.  Otherwise, it may not make much sense.

FAKE  Author's Commentary

Fake is a story I've been trying to write in one form or another for years.  It was born from a handful of disparate ideas, fragments I collected and tried to patch together into something coherent.  After several failed attempts in a variety of different styles, genres, and formats, with this story I finally managed to arrange these elements in a way that – to me at least – feels satisfying and meaningful.


Most of the elements in Fake were inspired by news stories that I stumbled across.  Obviously, the central idea tying everything together is the hoax.  A few years ago, there were a couple high profile journalistic hoaxes, specifically those of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair.  I filed them away in the back of my head somewhere under “possibly interesting story premises” but nothing ever really came of with it.

The first thing that really got me interested in hoaxes, however – and the one that I still find the most fascinating – was the case of JT LeRoy.

For those of you who don't know, JT Leroy was an alter ego created by the author Laura Albert.  She invented an elaborate, grand guignol life story for him that included sexual abuse, drug use, and prostitution as a child.  Through a series of phone calls and correspondences, LeRoy connected with a number of prominent writers who empathized with his childhood tragedies and championed his writing, which eventually was published to considerable critical acclaim.  Even though the work was technically categorized as fiction, part of its success lay in the fact that it was believed to be largely autobiographical.   Later,  Albert's sister-in-law Savannah Knoop started posing as LeRoy for public appearances to promote the books, explaining away her feminine voice and appearance by claiming to be a pre-operative transgender.  Eventually, however, the ruse fell apart and Albert was forced to confess that she had written the work and JT LeRoy did not actually exist outside of her own mind.

I hadn't hear of JT LeRoy or read any of the books until the news about the hoax broke.  Once that happened though, I became obsessed.  It's not that I think what Albert did was ethical –  it was certainly deceptive – but I think, in a way, I understood why she did it.  I remember reading that to her, it was more than using a pen name; she had to become JT LeRoy in order to write those stories.  Particularly, the fact that she was a woman who had to “become” a man in order to write about issues like gender identity and sexuality resonated with me – I have been cross-dressing since I was thirteen.  Also, it helped that, taken on their own as pure fiction, the books are actually still pretty good – and that one of them, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, was made into a film directed by and starring Asia Argento, with cameos by Lydia Lunch and Marilyn Manson, all three of whom are on my short list for People I Might End Up Stalking When I Finally Go Off The Deep End.

Anyways, the point is that I developed an interest in literary hoaxes, started doing a lot of research, and eventually started trying to write a story about a hoax from the point of view of its perpetrator, not to justify their actions, but to try to understand them.  Fake – or at least William's narrative – represents the final resolution of those attempts.

As a side note, while I was editing this story, I read an article about a ghostwriter who wrote “autobiographies” for celebrities, and in it he gave a really interesting description of the method he uses to find his subject's voice.  I couldn't help but draw parallels between his work and Albert's – even though they're at two opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of social acceptance.  So I decided to write that detail into my story.

Feral Children

The story about the sisters from Linz, Austria, was indeed an actual story, and it was another article I read that soon grew into an unhealthy obsession, leading me to do a lot of research into the subject of feral children – children who are somehow removed from society for a long enough period for it to affect their normal development and socialization – classically, this happened when children got lost in the wilderness (think Romulus & Remus, or Mowgli and Tarzan).  These days, however, it's more common for the child's removal from society to be deliberate (ie kidnapping) – and usually, as in the Linz case, done by a parent.

The problem with my early attempts to write a story about feral children, though, was that they all ended up too similar to Paul Auster's City of Glass.  I then went in another direction, trying to give it a stockholm syndrome-type twist; ultimately, however, I felt that idea was best left on the cutting room floor, so to speak.  Eventually, I merged the "feral child" with another character I had been developing, the supernatural musician.

As another side note, while I was finishing my first draft of Fake in its current incarnation, the news about Jaycee Dugard broke - one of many synchronicities that have cropped up for me in connection with this story.


The supernatural musician character was always the central role in the story throughout its various iterations.  In the earliest versions, her songs were spells to manifest ghosts; people came to hear her play so they could communicate with loved ones who had passed.  And they worked – for everyone except her.  She could never reach the person that she herself had lost, the person for whom the songs were written.

For the descriptions of her music and physical appearance, I pictured an amalgamation of Sigur Ros, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Zoe Keating, Amanda Palmer, and Lady GaGa.

Multi-Perspective Narration

The device of changing first-person narrators was something I had seen done well a couple of different places, first in one of Brett Ellis's books (I think The Informers) and most recently in the indie e-book Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer.  I liked the way it was used, but never really considered doing it myself until.  But as I started writing this story, I realized the technique could give it an interesting structure, kinda like Citizen Kane with a touch of Ryunosuke Akutagawa's In a Grove thrown in for good measure (or Kurosawa's adaptation Rashomon, I guess if you want to stick with the film references).  Wow, that's a lot of name dropping for one paragraph.  Sorry.

Anyways, I tried to give each narrator a unique voice and style.  The idea was that William would be a more self-indulgent and prone to wordy, florid descriptions, thinking such things make him sound writer-ly.  Amy on the other hand has a more direct, edgy, staccato voice.  She says what she means bluntly, doesn't waste time searching for pretty words and isn't afraid to resort to expletives.  For Karen, I let myself slip back into my something more like my natural writing voice, figuring that a simpler, no-frills  approach would work best for her.

Other Elements

The bit about Philip K Dick's twin sister is true.

Also, I've had a long-standing fascination with Aleister Crowley.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Customer Reviews, Part 2

In the spirit of my post from earlier this week, as well as the similarly-themed Publetariat Indie Call to Action, here are two more e-book reviews that will be cross-posted on Feedbooks and anywhere else I can find them available for download.

Herman Marmaduke by Small Stories

Small Stories is a powerhouse, a true pioneer when it comes to e-books and new media - experimenting with Microfiction, Twitter Novels, Wave Fiction, and any number of other ways to merge writing with technology that I probably haven’t even heard about yet.

Herman Marmaduke
is my personal favorite of his stories so far. Hovering somewhere in the realm between short story and novella, it is a simple yet resonant story about two men - one who cannot remember, and another who wishes he could forget. The title character is a past-his-prime celebrity adventurer type (think Jacques Cousteau or the Crocodile Hunter) who’s long since faded into obscurity and is haunted by a painful past.

What I found most satisfying about the story is the way it plays with identity; how I some ways our sense of identity can be so illusory and mercurial, and in other ways unyielding and inescapable. In the end, it’s about wish-fulfillment, about a man who wants to become someone else – anyone else, it doesn’t matter who, just as long as it isn’t him.

DEAD(ish) by Naomi Kramer

Dead(ish) was the one of the first e-books I read on Feedbooks, and it’s still one of my favorites. The story centers around a young woman who is murdered by her boyfriend and ends up haunting him to take revenge in insanely inventive, twisted ways. It’s a quick read, written in a playful, conversational style that shifts between several characters’ first-person points-of-view.

What makes it special is the way that it crackles with exuberant creative energy from start to finish, never dragging or dwelling on the kind of inconsequential minutiae that tends to trip up less-assured, more pretentious authors (myself most emphatically included). Part mystery, part ghost story, part revenge fantasy, Naomi’s work stampedes over genre conventions and thumbs her nose at outdated notions of literary propriety. She doesn’t care if it’s a fucking sentence fragment or not, she’s not worried if her potty-mouth offends you, she’s just telling the story she wants to tell, the way she wants to tell it.

Both these e-books are simple, personal stories written with a stripped-down, unpretentious grace. They are examples of the best that independent fiction has to offer, and I fail to see how either one would benefit from edited, workshopped, or focus-grouped to death.

Herman Marmaduke cover by Small Stories.  DEAD(ish) cover by PJ Lyons.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Customer reviews - how to democratize criticism for independent e-books

I've been thinking a lot about e-book reviews lately.

Actually, what I've really been thinking about is: How do you turn someone who reads books into someone who reads e-books, and then into someone who reads self-published e-books?

Why we need filters

Lately I've been talking to a lot of people who are considering buying e-book readers (I've been showing off my Sony Pocket Edition like the freakin' thing cures cancer).  And when they ask where you go to get e-books, I eagerly talk up Feedbooks and Smashwords.

But as much as I love those sites, their biggest strength is also their biggest weakness - they present a broad range of content with little or no filtering.  And like it or not, I think the "casual reader" likes filters.  Filters are what allow them to navigate through many choices to find something that speaks to them personally* - given a set value of finite resources (specifically money, time, and patience).

And even I - as a writer looking to use their services, not as a casual reader - have to admit I was taken aback by the staggering wall of superhero fanfic and "erotica" I found when first visiting those sites.  (Not that I have anything against comic books or porn, mind you - I'm a big fan of both, actually.  But there's a time and place.) 

Which is what led me to the idea: there needs to be more reviews of independent e-books.  Now,  you may or may not agree with the axiom that "reviews sell books", but speaking for myself as a consumer, reviews are probably the second-biggest factor (after friends' word-of-mouth) in determining what music I listen to, what plays I go to, what movies I watch, etc.

Moxie may be slow on the up-take, but Publetariat is on the ball

So I started looking around to see if there were any sites that catered specifically to reviews of independent e-book and even toyed with the idea of doing my own reviews.  The problem that became very obvious very quickly, however, was that sites dedicated to reviewing indpendent e-books, which are largely obscure and marginalized, are themselves also obscure and marginalized.  And sites (or magazines, weekly papers, etc, for that matter) who have access to a broader audience are more interested in reviewing work by established writers.


But then I read an article on Publetariat that put forth an interesting idea: the biggest, most influential clearinghouse for book reviews may actually be Amazon.  The article goes on to make suggestions for getting your book reviewed by Amazon's "top reviewers", but I won't go into all that, just click the damn link.

Think about it: point-of-sale customer reviews, the new democratization of criticism.  Using the mainstream's own tools against them.

So what's the point?

1. Independent authors need to take advantage of user reviews on mainstream booksellers like Amazon, B&N, Sony.

If you use Lulu or have a US bank account, you can be on Amazon.  If you're on Smashwords, soon you'll be able to be on B&N and Sony.  That takes care of three of the largest e-book devices/platforms right there.  Get your book listed, encourage your readers to leave comments and ratings, leave comments on books by independent authors that you enjoy, create "lists" that include your book along with mainstream work similar to yours.

2. Independent authors need to support the platforms that support them - promote the hell out of Smashwords and Feedbooks.
Link to them from your site, talk about them on your blog and Twitter.  And make them a better tool for new readers by leaving ratings and comments for independent e-books that you've read - and again, encourage your readers to do the same.

So what's the plan?

Step 1. I'm going to keep using the blog to review independent e-books that I personally enjoyed and think would appeal to readers who are new to the medium, similar to the write-ups for Password Incorrect and Brief Objects of Beauty and Despair in my last post.

Step 2. I'm going to copy my review and paste it into the customer review/user comments for the book's page on Feedbooks and/or Smashwords.

Step 3. If the work is available in print or electronic form through Amazon or B&N or Sony, I'm also going to copy my review there.  If someone does a really good audio e-book, I'll post the review on iTunes.  If someone has a video matching images to their poetry or prose, I'll post the review on YouTube.

Step 4. Encourage other independent e-book readers and writers to follow suit.  Alone, I'm only one voice - and hardly a credible one at that (strangely, not many people seem to care what some jackass who wears a wig and pretends to be named "Moxie" has to say, and I'm okay with that).  But it's not about promoting yourself as a single independent e-book author.  It's about creating a thriving independent e-book community.

Post-script: I had been working on a draft of this post when I saw a link to this article on Publetariat making a similar suggestion.  I took it as a sign that I might be onto something.

*I wrote something similar to this statement in response to a blog post over at Jenn Topper's Don't Publish Me.  So if you got a sense of deja vu reading it, that's why.  And if you didn't, you really should start reading Jenn's blog.  She's my new DIY hero.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The future... and people far more talented than me

Since my last post was self-indulgent and nostalgic, I thought I'd flip the script this week and focus on the future and other people who are far more talented than me.

You see, the most fascinating thing that has happened since I began e-publishing my own stories is discovering the mad, brilliant, beautiful, and quirky works of other e-published authors.  If uncovered so much that I wanted to read that I finally bit the bullet and bought an e-book reader (Sony PRS-300, if you're interested).  Honestly, I've read more in the last month or so since owning the e-reader than I have probably in the last year, possibly two.

There are two things that I love about reading e-published authors:

1. The raw, DIY aesthetic creates works that are truly personal; they look, feel, and even smell completely sincere.  Yes, they can be a little rough and unpolished.  Sure, there are typos.  But it's refreshing to read something that hasn't been processed, pasteurized, and artificially sweetened by the traditional publishing assembly line.

2. E-published authors (or at least the best among them) aren't afraid to explore and experiment with the applications of the new media.  They give away free downloads.  They encourage you to read their work on cell phones. 

Enough blathering, here are some examples, a few of my favorite e-published authors who are getting it right:

Niżej Podpisany / Nick Name

Nick Name is self-styled "writer 2.0" from Poland who has a collection of tech-absurd flash fiction called Password Incorrect.  You can download the free e-book at Feedbooks.

What I love about his stories is the nuanced, sophisticated relationship presented between human beings and technology, which is often belied by the absurdity of the humor.   He seems to present technology not as a boogey-man, but rather as the tools human beings create to fill real needs, whether they be emotional, spiritual, sexual, etc.  The problem, of course, arises from humans' preternatural abilities to epically fuck up even the best intentions.

Beyond his writings, however, he is also one of the people most aggressively innovative e-publishers and e-book evangelists out there.

#hashtagstory is a literary project he runs through his Twitter account (@namenick) that I saw described as Burroughs-esque cut-up for the web 2.0 era.  The idea is to take the most popular "trending topics" from Twitter and re-arrange them into a single tweet-length micro-fiction.

He also runs a blog where he shares e-book and e-publishing news as well as tips for budding authors like tutorials on turning your literary tweets into an e-book and gives away free e-book cover designs under a Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.

One of his most recent ideas, which I am thinking about "borrowing", is creating a mobile-friendly site for his short stories, so readers can access them on any cell phone, smart phone, or other mobile device.

Year Zero Writers

Year Zero is a collective of independent writers who pool their resources to cross-promote each others' work, and since they started up they have been literally everywhere on the internet.  Which is a great idea, but what really matters is how good - and I mean, really fucking good - their work is.

Each writer had their own unique thematic focus and style, but they all share a tendency toward gritty, hard-edged urban realism.  Theirs are stories about artists, junkies, seekers, and other imperfect souls who stay out too late, wake up with morning-after regrets, dig themselves in too deep - in short, people like the rest of us.

A good place to start, if you're interested, is the anthology Brief Objects of Beauty & Despair, which was my introduction to them.  It's available for free on Smashwords.

They also have a blog, to which the various members contribute flash fiction, bios, and assorted thoughts on literature and self-publishing.

But what does it all mean?

Okay so I plugged a few deserving authors, but what's my real point?  It had something to do with the future, right?

So the point is this: e-books as an art-form/medium are at a really exciting place right now.  On the one hand, almost any one can do it.  It's like punk rock - all you need is a little time, a little talent, and a lot of drive. 

On the other hand, the world-at-large still views it as more or less a ghetto, creativity wise.  It's hard for big media to control, even harder to monetize, and there are too many DIY-ers in the neighborhood driving the property values down.  So as an e-book writer, you can do whatever you want, because there's no one with a financial stake in reigning in your creative control.  Unlike film, there's no investor whose sunk millions into production and marketing who wants to make sure you'll play to the right demographics.  Unlike major publishing, there's no vulture circling overhead, hoping to turn you into the next sexy teenage vampires franchise or perennial Oprah pick.

We are where comic books used to be before Hollywood's mad dash to turn anything with 32 pages and a couple staples through the middle into a summer blockbuster.  We are Sub Pop/Seattle before Nevermind.

We are the future - as long as we have the courage to be.

Password Incorrect cover copyright Nick Name.  Brief Objects of Beauty & Despair cover copyright Larry Harrison.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A coming-of-age-story that never comes

I think part of the reason I like writing fiction is because I've always been better at lying than telling the truth.  However, in the true spirit of goodwill and bloggitude, I figured my inaugural post should probably tell you a little about myself.

The question is - how to do this in the easiet (least awkward) way?  So I decided to write 9 facts about Moxie Mezcal that in some (possibly obscure) way relate to my short story, 1999

[Quick aside: In case you haven't read it yet and want to, click here.  My cheesy faux book jacket summary for it is "It's New Year's Eve, and four teenage friends are waiting for the world to end" - since then, I've decided that a better description is "a coming-of-age-story that never comes."]

9 facts about Moxie Mezcal & 1999

1.  I wrote the story in a single afternoon/ evening in September 2009.  I had been receiving notices about my 10-year high school reunion in October; even though I had no intention of going, I was nonetheless feeling a little nostalgic.

2.  The night that I wrote it, I was 38% convinced that I was dying from a poisonous spider bite.  Turns out, that was not the case.

3.  The text says that nothing in the story really happened and nothing really happened in the story; at the same time, most of the events in the story are almost entirely autobiographical and based on things that happened to me or people I knew in high school.  Feel free to parse that sentence however you like.

4.  I love Dolores del Rio.  My favorite movie with her is La Otra.

5.  My first car was an '89 Toyota Camry, and I still get nostalgic when I think about it.

6.  I always somehow end up dating girls who smoke clove cigarettes. I smoked them myself for a short period of time when I was trying to quit smoking; they were too sweet and therefore I was less likely to chain smoke them than regular cigarettes.

7.  I have shoplifted before - eyeliner (back when I was too embarrassed to just take it up to the counter and pay for it).

8.  Once, driving along the highway in the middle of the night without another soul around for miles, on the way to a beach rave, my friend and I managed to convince each other that we had died in a horrible car crash on the way without realizing it, and now in the afterlife we were doomed to keep driving along this same stretch of highway for all eternity.  It should be pointed out that we were most likely high.

9.  I always thought the Y2K scare was kinda entertaining, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed when nothing happened.
    Anyways, I'm not sure how interesting all that really was.   If by chance you haven't read it before, and somehow this post convinced you that you'd like to read 1999, click here.

    Most of this post was true.

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Playlist | Making Dylan Maxwell

    Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones
    1. Last of the Famous International Playboys, Morrissey
    2. Dancing Choose, TV on the Radio
    3. Id Engager, Of Montreal
    4. Kill All Hippies, Primal Scream
    5. Art Star, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    6. Sheela na-Gig, PJ Harvey
    7. Hot on the Heels of Love, Throbbing Gristle
    8. Powerman, The Kinks 

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Playlist | 1999

    Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones
    1. Teen Age Riot, Sonic Youth
    2. Electioneering, Radiohead
    3. 50ft Queenie, PJ Harvey
    4. Wish, Nine Inch Nails
    5. I Don't Like the Drugs, Marily Manson
    6. Army of Me, Björk
    7. Oh L'Amour, Erasure
    8. Hey Jupiter, Tori Amos

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Playlist | Sweet Dream, Silver Screen

    Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones
    1. Stagger Lee, Lloyd Price
    2. Rumble, Link Wray
    3. Pictures of You, The Cure
    4. Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before, The Smiths
    5. 2HB, Roxy Music
    6. Leader of the Pack, The Shangri-Las
    7. You Can't Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones
    8. Revenge, Danger Mouse + Sparklehorse featuring The Flaming Lips
    9. Death Valley '69, Sonic Youth featuring Lydia Lunch
    10. TV Set, The Cramps
    11. Rattlesnakes, Lloyd Cole & the Commodores
    12. Uncertain Times, The Raveonettes