Ever since I was little, I wanted to work in a bookstore — or better still, own my own bookstore. They were always magical places to me, used bookstores especially, all those books with all their histories, lined up and quietly gathering dust and patiently waiting to be taken home and loved.
The older I get, the less likely it is that it will happen someday, I suppose. (Even putting aside the question of how much longer we’re going to have “bookstores.”)
But, well, living vicariously is what being a reader is all about — and this charming little list of lessons learned gave me a chance to do just that, and gave me a smile and a warm glow:
1. People are getting rid of bookshelves. Treat the money you budgeted for shelving as found money. Go to garage sales and cruise the curbs.
2. While you’re drafting that business plan, cut your projected profits in half. People are getting rid of bookshelves.
[....] 18. People use whatever is close at hand for bookmarks–toothpicks, photographs, kleenex, and the very ocassional fifty dollar bill, which will keep you leafing through books way beyond the point where it’s pr0ductive.
[....] 21. A surprising number of people will think you’ve read every book in the store and will keep pulling out volumes and asking you what this one is about. These are the people who leave without buying a book, so it’s time to have some fun. Make up plots.
(This post has been removed from this site by order of the United States government for linking to copyright-infringing material.)
Naaah, not really, of course. Our government would never do anything like that.
No, if SOPA passes, they’d never be cracking down on individual posts. Instead, if they found a post, a comment, anything that contained such a link — well, they’d just kick bloodletters.com off the Internet entirely.
Wait a minute, you might be saying, practically every website that exists probably has at least one link somewhere to copyrighted material that shouldn’t be there …. They can’t be serious, can they?
Serious like a heart attack, kids. This is a stupid, dangerous bill — well, two bills, really, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House — and they’ll have tremendous consequences that could shut down websites you use every day.
You probably already know about this. Major sites are doing their best to get the word out. Some sites, like Google, are blacking out their logo, like I’ve done above; other sites, like Wikipedia, are shutting down for the day entirely in protest.
So why am I taking your time to point all this out again? Just so you keep thinking about it. We can’t stay silent on this. The bill is dying as we speak, but we’ve got to keep the pressure up to make sure it stays dead.
I just wrote to Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, and Jay Inslee, and here’s what I told them:
As a voter in your district, I want to urge you to vote “no” on the STOP ONLINE PIRACY/PROTECT IP Act on Jan. 24th.
I understand that online piracy is a problem, but this bill is not the way to attack it. Forcing American social networks, blogs and search engines to censor the Internet only hurts the wrong people, and would have an insurmountable chilling effect on free speech and innovation. The Internet, as it exists, has created millions of jobs and created an inprecedented resource for information and communication, and deserves your protection, not only for the sake of everyone using it today, but for generations to come.
Thank you for your consideration.
Go, do it now. (If you’re trapped at home in the snow today, like me, you really have no excuse not to.) You’re welcome to use my words above, but we’re more likely to be taken seriously with something other than form letters, so please consider writing your own. Thanks.
It’s here, it’s here! “Detritus,” the anthology I sold a story to a couple of months ago, has just been released, and man, it looks good. My story, “Heroes and Villains,” looks like it’s in great company:
The impulse to collect springs from deep within the human psyche Squirrels gather acorns, rats collect shiny things, but only humans assign meaning to the objects they collect. Detritus is a collection of stories about the impulse to collect, preserve, and display gone horribly wrong. [...] Each of the stories, whether about a collection that is world changing or intensely personal, is sure to linger in readers’ thoughts and make them consider the possibility that malice and evil just might lurk in their own hoard of stuff.
Remember that book giveaway I did at Goodreads back in October? The main reason that writers do those — I mean, the main reason aside from our inherently generous and giving natures, of course — in in the hopes that some of the people who receive your book might review it on the site.
So I’ve been sitting back and patiently hoping for reviews ever since. (Well, as patiently as I ever do anything, anyway.) I’d kind of assumed that when someone reviewed my book, I’d automatically get an email letting me know.
Well, either my assumption was wrong, or the notification ended up buried in my email somewhere, because when I looked at the Goodreads page for “Slices” today, I was surprised and delighted to see that there are in fact already reviews on it!
Check them out! Great comments like:
I do not like short stories, but I liked these short stories. I do not like spooky stories, but I liked these scary stories. What does that mean? You have a new fan.
[...] I was pleasantly surprised by how varied, and interesting, each of the stories in this anthology truly were. Montoure uses familiar tropes such as vampires and ghosts, and yet twists them into a very different re-telling of the usual stories told again and again in our current culture.
An interesting collection of horror stories. Some were great, others not so much.
Hmmm. Well, maybe not that last one. Heh.
It’s great that this book is starting to get out there and find readers, and so much fun to see how people are reacting to it. Very, very gratifying.
(Hey, if you don’t have a copy yet, and you’re the kind of person who likes writing reviews — contact me. I’m happy to give away free e-book editions to people who will promise they’ll post an honest review on Amazon. Thanks!)
My first video! Here I’m performing “Remake,” one of the stories from Slices, at the Reading Room in Seattle last Halloween. It’s a little over thirteen minutes long. I’ve got a couple more of these from another reading that I’m going to post soon — let me know what you think. Thanks!
Ye cats and little fishes! Fellow writer Elizabeth Twist asked me a few questions about Slices and then let me know that she’d posted “a brief review” of it on her blog. Now, when I read the words “brief review,” I was expecting something like, “Hey, I read this book, it was totally awesome, you should check it out,” full stop.
But this wonderfully glowing review is sharp, insightful, and in just a couple paragraphs, lays bare what the book is all about. So, while I’m not vain enough to link to this just because she liked it — oh, who am I kidding, I totally am — I will say you should go check this out just to see her so clearly express what I’m trying to do with my writing:
The failures and beauties of human relationships are at the core of Michael’s work. Few of his characters work on a solo basis, and those that do are drawn into unusual or regrettable positions. The fantasy and horror elements feel familiar in the sense that a recurring nightmare or a story heard in childhood feels familiar. These tropes resonate powerfully with the emotional problems at the heart of each tale. In my opinion, Slices is at its strongest when considering the many permutations of men’s relationships, most sadly and beautifully in the context of male friendship, brotherhood, and love.
She also asked me questions about why I write short stories, how I approach world-building, and what’s next, so you should definitely check that out as well:
ET: What draws you to the short story as a form? As a writer of horror and dark fantasy, what are the advantages of writing shorts as opposed to novel length works?
MM: For me, horror is such a concentrated emotion that I think it works better in short, sharp shocks. You can take a relatively simple idea, a few clear images, and express them in a very direct way, whereas that effect might be diluted if you were to take those ideas and stretch them out over the canvas of a novel. I think the short story lets you take more risks — and puts your characters at more risk, as well. [...] Novels rarely kill everyone. Whereas in a short story, you have no idea who’s safe, or if anyone is.
Hey there, good morning. On Friday, I posted a few words about setting goals, and about what it means to do that. I told you I was going to sleep on it over the weekend, and come back and tell you what I’m setting out to accomplish this year. This is the post-bullshit, scrap the New Year’s Resolutions, cold-slap-of-reality version. This list looks pretty reasonable to me. You can hold me to this — if I don’t live up to these by December 31st, I’ll buy you a drink. Yes, you.
Get back to a better blog posting schedule. For a while there, I was doing really well with Bloodletters — I had a routine of putting together three posts over the weekend, and timing them to go live during the week. That was working out quite nicely, and like all good habits, it was really easy for me to let it slide. However I want to end up scheduling things on my end, I want to make sure I don’t end up going silent for a whole month again like I did in December. “Better” is a very subjective term, and I’d have a hard time holding myself publicly accountable for that, so let’s turn that into a nice, concretely quantifiable goal: Maintain an average of posting at least twice a week throughout 2012.
Post video content. So I have this spiffy high-definition digital video camera I bought back in April of last year. Since then, I’ve filmed a couple of my readings, and taken some behind-the-scenes footage during filming for Causality. Have I bothered to put any of this cool stuff online? No — no, I have not. In fact, I never even sat down and figured out how to get any of this footage off of my camera and onto my computer until last night. This is more than slightly ridiculous, and I need to fix that. So, let’s say: Post at least half-a-dozen readings and at least one book trailer in 2012.
Do everything I can to get Causality Season One finished. Okay, see what I did there? I originally wrote, “Finish Causality Season One,” and then I remembered what I said last week about goals being things you have the power to accomplish on your own, and I realized I was being a tremendous hypocrite. We have a pretty amazing team working on Causality, and I feel pretty sure we will have it done by then. But all I can promise myself is that I will try my hardest and do everything I can do.
Finish and release Still Life. This is the big one. Still Life is the novel-length continuation of the story “One Last Sunset,” which appears in my collection Slices and which many people have told me is one of their favorites. If it’s one of your favorites, and you’ve wondered what happens to Nikki Velvet after the events of that story — well, the answer to that has been sitting on my hard drive for years now. There’s quite a bit of work that needs to be done on the manuscript still, but I think it’s entirely doable to rewrite it, edit it, format it, and have it online in time for this year’s Christmas season. (And now that I’ve said that in public, I’m going to sit over here in the corner and hyperventilate for a while.) I love this story too much to keep neglecting it, and I owe to Nikki to get her story out there.
Get my individual short stories up online. That’s what I meant to have done in time for this Christmas season, but it fell by the wayside. I’m going to release some of the stories from my collections as stand-alone e-books, as well as several short stories that haven’t seen the light of day anywhere else. Let’s say I’m going to have at least twenty short stories available for sale in 2012.
Submit to at least half-a-dozen anthologies. This seems to work for me — I see a call for stories for an anthology, I get an idea from the requested theme, and it actually gets my butt in the chair to get some writing done. And if it doesn’t get accepted, well, I still have a new short story. That went well last year a couple of times — one of those stories did end up in the anthology, and it will be out this month. It’s a good habit and I need to keep it going.
Release another collection of short stories. Kind of a no-brainer. People do seem to like them. I like them.
Publish a new edition of Counting From Ten. By this point, the original has been out of print long enough that the rights have reverted to me. (And if my original publisher has any argument with that, he should answer my e-mails every once in a while.) I have a few copies of the original edition left, but not a lot of them. It’s time to dust it off, polish it up, revise the stories in it a little, maybe add a new story or two, and definitely some bonus content, and get it back out into the world.
Actually promote things once in a while. This is another big one. I’ve been doing all this cool stuff, and I’ve been doing a lot of research about how an indie writer like myself can promote his work on the Internet, and now I need to start doing some of it. I need to come up with a more detailed marketing plan, which I’ll tell you about when I’ve done it, but for now let’s say I’m going to approach at least fifty book-bloggers and buy advertising in at least three places in 2012.
Okay. Umm, that all looks like a lot. I’d better get to work. Talk to you soon.
… Good grief, has it really literally been an entire month since I last posted? Sorry, everyone — my birthday is in early December, and between that, Christmas, and New Year’s, I was running on maximum distraction mode. I did manage to get a few things done last month, but blogging apparently didn’t make the list.
Anyway, if you’re anything like me, you’ve finally caught up on sleep after New Year’s Eve, and the hangover might be starting to fade. You’re looking over that list of New Year Resolutions you made and thinking, hell, I’ve blown half of those already. This might depress you enough that you might even be looking in the back of the fridge to see if there’s any of that pitcher of sangria left.
Okay, stop. Let’s back up a second — toss out that list of resolutions and let’s start over. Let’s start thinking about our actual goals.
No, wait, keep backing up. Let’s make sure first we know what a “goal” is.
I’ve always had the same definition as Dean Wesley Smith, who says that a goal is something that is within your control. If you have a “goal” in mind that relies on someone else — an editor, an agent, anyone else — then that’s not a goal:
So when some writer talks to me about a goal of selling a book to a traditional publisher by the end of the year, I just snort and they walk away insulted. I wasn’t laughing at their ability to write. Not at all. I was laughing at the goal they set and put a deadline on that was out of their control completely. Such goals are guaranteed to create disappointment.
He calls these not-goals “dreams”, which I think sounds a little dismissive. I’d call them “ambitions,” maybe.
The point is to think about and focus on what you can do. You can’t say, “I’m going to sell 500 books on Amazon next month,” because that literally relies on what 500 other people do, and that’s not something you get to beat yourself up over. You can say, “I’m going to finally buy that ad space on Kindle Boards like I keep thinking about,” and with any luck maybe that will help you sell those 500 books.
You can set goals for your writing. Maybe you can decide you’re going to write a thousand words a day. Not bad, totally reasonable. But then you start thinking, but wait, what if I don’t manage to write those thousand words every day? What if I fail? And then we’re back to the sangria again.
Okay, look, if you don’t manage to write anything at all after setting such a goal, then maybe you can say you’ve failed. But if you’re actively reaching for your goal and you fall short of it –
Well — so what?
How many of you took part in NaNoWriMo this past November? Did you make it all the way to 50,000 words? No, huh? Petered out at 38,000 and you’ve been kicking yourself ever since?
Look, you may not have hit your target, but if you’ve written a substantial chunk of a probably perfectly salvageable novel, that is not a “failure” by anyone’s definition except yours. Think of that one friend of yours who hasn’t written a damn word since English class ten years ago but keeps saying he’s “going to be a writer someday.” Him? He’s a failure. (Although you might not want to say that to his face.)
You didn’t hit the target, then you stop, reload, take aim again.
This weekend, think about what exactly you want to take aim at throughout this next year. I’ll be doing the same, and we’ll meet up again on Monday.
An unreliable narrator, MICHAEL MONTOURE ( email@example.com )
is an indie writer of horror and dark urban
obsessions include hidden truths, secret dealings, and the changing and
fragile nature of our own pasts. He is known as much for his
spoken-word performances of his fiction at Seattle coffeehouses and
conventions as for the stories themselves. Currently working as a writer
and producer of the webseries Causality, he lives alone with
a gray cat by the edge of Echo Lake, Washington. ( Twitter / Facebook