These are some more photos I took as I was disposing of my blood spattered books.
I recently got to have the fun of desecrating some of my own books for the cause of creating some artwork for a flier for an upcoming event. I really had fun with it, despite having to sacrifice some books for the project. I took a bunch of pics but here are a few of the fun ones.
The Reason and the Why
I can’t claim to have many fans of my writing. I think everyone who publishes would like to think that there’s this group of people absolutely chomping at the bit for the next release but I am not much for lying to myself. Those people just don’t exist for me. I have people that support what I do but I don’t really have fans. Ah, well, maybe I have one. There’s a little old lady from the Flint area that writes really lovely poetry who I met years and years ago at an open mic event and whenever I see her we talk for a little while. She is, I think, a fan of the Meep Sheep books. I remember after I finished the second book, The Kreep Sheep, she kept asking me when the next was coming and for a long time I wasn’t sure. I ran into her again this past summer and she made sure to pick up the last of the Meep books and all was well with the world.
I ran into her again two weeks back at Flint’s monthly Art Walk and she had read The Last Sheep and had questions for me. Questions I didn’t necessarily have answers for. It was frustrating at first but then I realized that this was someone so invested in the series that she had genuine, thoughtful questions for me. It’d be great if I had clear and simple answers to give her but that fact was that I didn’t. I don’t. And that’s OK.
The thing about my writing is that it’s all done by ‘feel’. That’s how I approach anything artistic I do. I don’t necessarily have a plan, I just dive in and see what happens. With the last Meep book I had lots of ideas but a lot of them changed and I know the core of the plot was jettisoned. Not because I didn’t like it, I think it would have been a compelling book, it just didn’t fit the story that was unfolding. And that’s how I write. I sure as heck don’t know if I am any GOOD at it but that’s how I write – by feel. I keep thinking of things from my zombie novel Cemetery Earth that bother me until I force myself to remember that I know how I write, and why I make the choices I make. I just need to trust myself. I was thinking about the ending of CE last night and was pondering why I made a certain choice and was worried for a moment about the believability of the ending but reminded myself – it’s a book. It’s a story. It’s not reality. If people want reality they can go read a biography or some such. A story works by its own rules and logic and if it keeps to those rules and to that logic then you can’t worry about the rest. It doesn’t mean everyone will like those rules and that logic. It doesn’t mean that anyone will. But if the story is true to itself then that’s all you can ask. Sure, we all read a book that drives us crazy but it’s usually because it broke its own rules. No one wants to pick up a Winnie the Pooh book where Pooh Bear is never discovered when he gets stuck in his tree’s knothole and he dies there. It breaks the rules of the story. Saying all that I’d love to have all the answers as to why I write things the way I do but, honestly, I don’t really think about what things mean, I write what feels right and let it go at that. Now, maybe that’s a mistake but heck, if I am not going to be disrupting some huge fanbase and creating internet havoc somewhere then who cares?
Saying all this though it’s nice when someone does have thoughtful questions and general curiosity about something you pour so much of your heart into. That’s a thing someone could get used to.
It’s a shame that time and again the old dance of going after writing for being self-published still gets carted out from time to time. I have said it before and say it again – how is it that you can make movies yourself – INDIE – and music yourself – DIY – but god help you if you go through nontraditional means to get your work out there you’re suddenly a hack.
How does that make sense?
Now, I will grant you that let’s say that 95% of all self pub stuff released is OK to Not Good (my work is closer to Meh than either of those) which tends to be what people focus on, and that’s not unfair but it’s not a whole picture. Go into any bookstore or onto any book site and look at what’s there, that was published via traditional means, and how much of it is empirically good? How much is at least OK?
The difference between a published author in today’s market and a self pubbed one is luck as much as anything else. It’d be great to say – all of the people published today are genuinely talented authors with voices that cannot be denied.
That ain’t the case.
There’s a lot of crap out there, self pubbed and traditionally pubbed.
The greatest sin of self pub work, and I fall into this COMPLETELY, is the lack of editing and an editorial voice. Now, I prefer my work raw. I have a lot of things I can fix/do fix but I like that the work people get comes FROM me and isn’t filtered through other people. But that’s not always a good thing. Editors help keep the writer on task, cleans up the work, and makes sure the thing makes sense. Also, when a work is created for commerce it also forces those involved to take a harder look at it. I know I have enough stories written and more in my head that I could keep churning out book after book after book but knew that I needed to stop where I was. There’s a point of self-parody that you don’t want to reach.
The sins of self pubbed authors are many but most, MOST are self-inflicted and most only damage that author. When you look at some of the work that is picked up and put out traditionally, that to me is the problem.
Too much literal crap is put out.
There is a market for EVERY thing out there so variety is always great but having spent the last twenty years looking for publishers and getting no responses, or the same canned responses you start to pay more attention to trends. You start to laugh at the narrow focus the publishers have – We only want Christian fiction for babies – and you take heart a little. I was at a horror writing convention and had two pitches to publishers, a little one and a big one and each one I had ten minutes to pitch and each place yammered about themselves for six-eight of those minutes. They knew they were never going to buy anything from me, they knew it because that’s how that system works. Very, very few people get traditionally published these days.
And that’s fine.
But don’t tell me it’s because they have more talent than everyone else out there.
And don’t lecture me when I say to hell with the system and head in a different direction.
The biggest issue I have with the whole thing is that it takes away the common thread that binds us all together – we’re all writers. Good or bad, we are writers. I have a lot more respect for a writer that isn’t very good but writes out of passion and love for writing than I do for someone who has their works ghostwritten so they can keep cashing paychecks based off of their name value. Taking it all together there’s just a lot of crap out there, a lot, and it’s our job, your job, my job, OUR job to wade through it to get to what we want to read and what is worth our time. Don’t expect me to fight battles though for you, for anyone that belittles and denigrates what I do though. There is a battle being waged between Amazon and a large publishing house that has sweeping implications but the thing is that you can’t tell me what I do is invalid then ask me to take your side. Just like you can’t be on the sidelines catcalling people who have professional careers that are riding on how this turns out.
We need less They and Them and more US. We are all writers. We’re all trying to get our work out there and seen. The sad fact is that most of us, the greater part of most of us, will never live the dream of seeing our books in stores, having people anxious to read our work, and will never make but negligible money on what we do. I know so many authors that have their work put out traditionally but who still don’t make any money and it makes me see that it isn’t just Amazon that is broken but publishing as a whole. We began treating books and writing as if it was fast food to consume, crap out, then consume some more. The industry focused so much of its efforts on The Next Big Thing that it lost sight of the idea of finding and fostering talent. And book prices have made it easier to just get an e-book or not bother reading at all.
Books lost their magic.
We took it away.
Our fighting, our arguing, or finger pointing distracted us as the magic left.
The last time I stood in line for a book was to get the Seventh Harry Potter book and I expect that that is the very last time there’ll be a book that people stand in line for and that’s just sad.
Established authors need to remember where they came from and to encourage and nurture young writers. Not just kids but adults. Anyone who wants to write. Most people won’t see the stories and novels through to completion but they should be encouraged to do it. We need to spend less time bashing self pub authors and more time seeing why they went that way and how their work differs from traditionally published work. We need to stop acting as if we are better than one another.
It’s about stories, about telling stories, not about how we tell them.
So yeah, I AM self published. After spending years and years and too much money looking for someone to give my work a chance I decided to go the DIY route, the same route I took for all of the projects I have ever done. I would love to say my work is polished and will blow you away but it isn’t, and it won’t, but my stories deserve to be told. I deserve to tell them. If people aren’t interested then fine, but to tell me that my stories are invalid because of how they reach people is crap, and it’s lazy, and it’s the sort of thing that has made the publishing world the elitist manure factory that it’s become. I have spent hundreds of hours on my work, have created my own covers, have laid my work out, and have worked to get these stories and books out there. You can tell me my stories aren’t any good but you can’t convince me that they don’t deserve to be seen.
When I started writing I didn’t think I would one day produce nine books. Not ever. Even when my first book came out. It just…it wouldn’t have computed. It still doesn’t. I have put my ninth book out just before I turn 40.
For me The Last Sheep is the end of a journey. A journey that began in the mid-2000s and which ends now. A journey which began with Bumble Kitties and lead to Meep Sheep as I would muse over these weird creatures with a friend at our vitamin store job. Those silly animals soon became a story that was inspired by a friend and which allowed me to change gears and to write something that wasn’t overtly dark and horrific. The story became a chapbook that I took to comic conventions with other chapbooks and my first book in the hopes of making some sales and getting my work out to the world. Once I discovered Create Space and started putting books out again it became clear that there was more to the world of the Meep Sheep that I wanted to tell.
The Meep Sheep was an experiment and three have been. The first was to see if I could tell a fairy tale and not to let the darkness overtake the story. It was also an experiment in layout and design. I had never designed a book before I started with Create Space but suddenly I had to consider the book as a whole – the writing, the layout, the cover design, the back cover text, the book size, paper type, and what I do with it once it’s done. The thing is though that all of that is fun. It’s MORE fun if you are not under the gun due to some weird pressure you put on yourself but, you know, life ain’t all lemondrops and candy canes.
The experiment continued with The Kreep Sheep, the follow up book. This book began as a Tumblr blog where I wanted to occasionally tell stories about the world of the Kingdom of Man and to fill in some of the history. What I found though was that in telling random stories of this world it made me fall in love with it all over again. I had never really built a world before. Not one that I wanted to keep going back to. Sure, when I write there’s a world beneath it all that is oft-times connected but this is different. This is a place that is molded completely by me and it’s intoxicating. You can see why people write fantasy – you craft everything and can make and remake the world as you see fit. It’s not a god-trip as much as a creator trip where you get to see what you can come up with. After a few stories I realized that this project was a book that I just hadn’t been ready to write but which served as a bridge to a bigger story. It told histories, side stories, and built the first part of a bridge into the next and final story.
That’s where The Last Sheep comes into the picture. As I sat and stewed on Kreep Sheep I started to wonder what came next? What happens when the Queen’s reign is over? What happens if the past came back to haunt her and the whole world? It began with another side story, a short that leads off Last Sheep that introduces us to the Son, a thing driven towards revenge and conquest that is the first spark of a coming war. That story was meant to be a standalone and little else but it became something fare greater as it served as its own spark that started me thinking about this last Meep book. One last story to wrap up the loose ends and to open the door to a million more stories.
I wrote The Last War – the title changed so it would blend more easily with the other two books so Last Sheep it became – between February and March 2013 and writing it was like a fever dream. I kept pushing myself and every obstacle I just pushed past until it was done. The book wasn’t what I had first thought it would be, which is usually the case, but I love what it became because it surprised me. Its trajectory surprised me.
I am proud of this book, a book about war, a last war that would decide the fate of the world. It was a tale of the end of an age and the beginning of a new one. I got a chance to say goodbye to a lot of characters I love and love writing about. And I got to put a cap on the series and my publishing.
Last War indeed.
I think if there was one thing I was most dodgy about it was the cover. I wasn’t sure what I wanted outside of wanting to do the art myself. What ego I have I try to direct towards my art and writing and not towards the other aspects of my life…which isn’t always easy or possible but I do TRY. I am not a great artist but I started toying with ideas and came up with one I liked and began working on it. The coloring of the tree was the happiest of accidents. As I was coloring it digitally something got screwed up and there were little spots here and there that were separate sections so that you had to individually color them in and as I did I started to play with the colors because the tree it represents in the book is sick and rotting but is also full of life so the color changes fit that idea and it came out pretty neat.
I truly love this book and if it is the last book I ever produce I am content with that and happy to be able to cap this series, which deserved one last story before I turned out the light.
You can find the book on Amazon, Kindle, and in the e-store.
It is 380 pages and retails for $15
For any of my books you can find links here – http://www.meepsheep.com
When I began writing as a teenager I didn’t really have an end-goal, didn’t have an agenda, and didn’t see anything but the words as they spun out before me. The older I got the more ambitious I got and the wider my view became. The words and stories still seem like magic, like a spell woven by someone else, something else, and I am but a conduit for it. I love telling stories and love writing. I love dark stories because they dip into worlds of imagination where a simple shadow can hold untold things and hidden worlds. I feel like I can tell the same sorts of stories that the ‘literary fiction’ wants to tell but can add an element to heighten things, and to emphasize things. And really, I just like to wander into the shadows from time to time.
These books, different as they all are, have one thing in common and that is hope in the darkness. Light in the abyss. Not every story can have a happy ending but there’s something pure and revelatory even in the bleakest of tales.
Why do I write? Because I love to tell stories and occasionally it’s fun to creep people out…or maybe make them smile.
These books are my worlds and I promise to take you places and show you things you have never seen before. These books are doorways and you hold the keys.
Enter if you dare.