Origin Story: How I Became a Novelist (PART 1 of 2)

PART ONE | PART TWO

How in the world did I ever become a writer?  It wasn't exactly a straight line, I can tell you that. When I was a kid, all I cared about was drawing. That’s all I did. A blank piece of paper to me was an invitation. I can remember countless experiences of eating out at restaurants and asking my mom or my grandmother or any other nearby adult for a pen or a pencil, then I’d then turn over the paper mat that was usually set on the table and I’d start drawing. What did I draw, you might be wondering?

Superheroes mostly. I was obsessed with superheroes. Superman started out as my favorite, mostly because he could fly. I also loved that he had super strength and he wore a cape. A superhero without a cape always seemed like a lost opportunity to me. I don’t remember when I first discovered Superman. Much like Jesus or McDonald’s, he always seemed to be around, just an ubiquitous presence for as long as I can remember. I know for certain I watched him on television in Adventures of Superman, the 1952 TV series starring George Reeves (in syndication, of course, as I was born in 1977). While I loved the TV show—despite my inability to remember a single episode, only snippets of Superman jumping out of windows—I adored the original 1978 Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve and directed by Richard Donner.

My brother, Greg, had a large comic book collection when I was growing up.  I remember them on top of a shelf so high it nearly touched the ceiling. You couldn’t get them without climbing on some furniture.  The fact that they were so hard to get made them all the more tantalizing. I used to read the comics from his collection all the time and Superman was always my first choice, though he had a wide variety of heroes from both the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe. When I was about nine or ten and my taste in superheroes became more sophisticated, I decided that I just couldn’t buy into Superman anymore.

I mean—so what?—he could fly and he was super strong. In my mind, anybody could make up a superhero with those powers. It was so simple. In need of a more complex hero, I turned to Batman. Batman was great, because he had a cape and he didn’t need superpowers. He was just a dude who was really smart and worked really hard—and, of course, he had millions of dollars, but that part never captured my imagination as a kid.  He also had a TV show starring Adam West and, like most kids, I had no idea it wasn’t a drama. Much like Adventures of Superman, I can’t really remember any specific episode of Batman, but I do know that I loved it and I watched it every time I saw it on TV.

So, anyway, I loved drawing as a kid and, in particular, I loved drawing superheroes. I spent countless hours trying to mimic my favorite covers, usually of Batman.  For years and years, Batman became my subject of choice. In fact, if you can find anybody who knew me from around fourth or fifth grade through high school, they’ll likely remember me as the kid who drew Batman all the time. My dream was to be a comic artist. I couldn’t think of anything better than drawing superheroes for a living. I practiced and practiced and I drew and drew and while I got better over time, I was never good enough to satisfy my own barometer of excellence.

Other people thought I was very good (some might even say I was terrific, but I suppose you'll have to ask them yourself) but I always knew that I'd plateaued at a very young age. I understood that I was never going to get much better than I was and, if I had any real chance of drawing comics, I’d have to be better. The problem was no matter how good my drawings were, they never looked like the pictures in my head, which was horribly frustrating. I kept drawing anyway and I took a bunch of art classes in high school and by the time I graduated I was burnt out on the whole thing.

I just didn’t love it anymore, which was a weird feeling, because, for the whole of my life up to that point, being an artist was central to who I was. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life anymore. In the mean time, while I floundered in the purgatory of broken dreams, I enrolled in Chaffey College, which is the local community college where I grew up in Rancho Cucamonga.  My first year there, I took two classes which changed my life forever.

PART ONE | PART TWO

Origin Story: How I Became a Novelist (PART 2 of 2)

PART ONE | PART TWO

The first class was a U.S. history course. I’ve never been a very good history student and that class did nothing to change that. However, we were assigned three novels to read that semester, the first of which was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. This was pretty scary, since I’d never really read a full novel before. Unless it was a comic book, I could never make it to the last page. The closest I ever came to reading a full novel was the novelization of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie by Craig Shaw Gardner. I don’t really count that, though, because, even though I read the words, I didn't really take the story in. I hadn't yet unlocked the code for truly reading a book. Also, I knew the movie would soon be in theaters, so I wasn't exactly motivated to give it my all.

The Jungle was especially intimidating, because it was about 400 pages and the font was super small and it was super single spaced, so I saw no way I could finish that book in a month, which was how long the professor gave us to read it before the test. I knew that I couldn’t afford to drop that class, because I’d need it to graduate and I also knew if I was going to make anything out of my life, it was going to come by going to college, so I had to figure it out. I tried to approach it logically, breaking down the number of pages in the book and how many days I had to finish it, and coming up with a certain number of pages per day to read. I think it was about fifteen, which seemed reasonable.

My first day reading it was a disaster. I could hardly make heads or tales of what was happening and since I’d hitched my whole future to finishing this book, I basically felt like I was on the verge of failing life. The next day I picked up the book again and started reading, though I had little hope of understanding it any better. I read and read and read and, without warning, something magical happened.  It’s going to sound corny, but I swear I’m not making this up. The words went away and it was as if the pages began projecting a movie into my head.  And it was such a wonderful movie, dramatic and exiting and sad and triumphant.  I was following Jurgis , this poor Lithuanian  immigrant, who was trying to provide a life for himself and his 15-year-old wife, Ona, and the conditions were horrible and the wife died and he worked in a terrible meatpacking plant…and on and on…

And then I stopped and I realized, “Holy shit! I’m reading!  This is reading!” And I was so mad at myself for stopping, because I worried I’d never be able to get that movie back in my head.  So, I started reading again, fingers crossed, and, after a few minutes, I got the movie back. I finished that book in three days. That’s when I learned I loved to read. I remember going into a bookstore after that and looking at all these books and thinking to myself, “You mean to tell me there are movies hiding in all of these books and all I have to do is read them?” It was a revelation.

The second class that changed my life was a composition course I took with the author S. Kay Murphy. Because it was composition, the purpose of the class was to write essays. The first essay Kay had us write was an autobiographical essay. I wrote about working at Thrifty’s and scooping ice cream and stealing and eventually losing my job. Kay loved the essay so much that she read it to the class. The class loved it too—they laughed at all the funny parts and gasped at all the suspenseful parts and I loved every moment of it.

That alone would’ve been amazing for me, but it was the note Kay left me on the last page of my essay that sealed the deal.  She said, “You’re pretty good at this. You should think about majoring in English.” That’s all I had to hear (or read). I was so excited to be good at something—especially something that seemed to come pretty easily to me—that I decided to study English. I had no idea what that meant or where it would lead me, but I was willing to find out.

Around that time, I remember watching the Academy Awards. I've always loved the Academy Awards, but I remember being hyper-aware of how beautiful everyone was and how well they dressed they were and how talented they seemed to be and how lovely their speeches were and all I knew was I wanted to be a part of that. So, I decided that screenwriting would be my best chance into the world of Hollywood. And so, that became the goal. I was going to be a screenwriter.

I figured that if I was going to write movies, I first needed to learn how to tell a story, so I enrolled in a creative writing class at Chaffey. It was three hours a week on Friday mornings and the professor was a really kind old man who used to be a staff writer on the Smurfs. If the Smurfs connection wasn’t enough to make me love him, then his friendship with Stan Lee certainly was (I wish I could remember the professor’s name, but I’m notoriously bad with names and so, unfortunately, his has become another of my causalities). All that I really remember from the class was that it was fun and I had no idea how to tell a story.

But, as a consequence of that class, I fell in love with the craft of prose fiction. Much like drawing pictures, I knew I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be, but unlike drawing, I didn’t feel that same ceiling over my head. I felt like my potential for writing was far greater than my potential for comic book art and that was a great feeling. Even if it wasn't true, I felt like if I worked really, really hard, I could become a great writer. And that's how I found myself on the road to becoming a novelist.

PART ONE | PART TWO

The Metamorphosis

One of my very first English professors, a kindly old lady at Chaffey College, once told us not to bother reading boring books. "There are too many good books out there," she said, "to waste your time reading something you're not enjoying."

It was great advice, which I still adhere to almost 17 years later. Of course, I also understood that she was talking about our personal reading preferences, as opposed to what we were assigned to read as students. In the course of my education, I had to read a lot of stories that I would otherwise not have entertained had my grade not been on the line. I came to equate—as so many students do—school reading with boring reading.

That was all before I read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

"As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He lay on his hard armorlike back and when he raised his head a little he saw his vaulted brown belly divided into sections by stiff arches from whose height the coverlet had already slipped and was about to slide off completely."

-Franz Kafka, 'The Metamorphosis' (translated by Donna Freed

There I was, in my bedroom, reading about this man, Gregor Samsa, who woke up one morning and found himself transformed into a giant cockroach! (Note to reader: The Metamorphosis has been translated several times and in the first version I read Gregor Samsa was transformed into a "cockroach," as opposed to an "insect" or "vermin.") Of course, my immediate thought was that Kafka was speaking metaphorically and Gregor simply felt like a cockroach. But, as I read on, I discovered that Gregor actually had transformed. And, while there are plenty of metaphorical implications in the subtext, it was, on its surface, a story about a man who turned into an cockroach. And I was reading it for school!

When I first encountered The Metamorphosis about 11 years ago as an English major at Cal State San Bernardino, I felt like I'd discovered some wonderful secret, some hidden gem buried in my otherwise boring textbook. Perhaps because I was so excited about The Metamorphosis, I sort of dominated the discussion we had about it in class. Soon thereafter, I ended up writing my first English paper as a university student about it, analyzing Gregor Samsa's relationship with his sister (which I argued could be viewed as an incestuous longing on his part). And a few weeks after that, I gave an oral presentation on The Metamorphosis for extra credit. I didn't really need the extra points, I just didn't want to stop talking about it.

"He would have needed arms and hands to prop himself up, instead of which he had only the many little legs that continually waved every which way and which he could not control at all. If he wanted to bend one, it was the first to stretch itself out, and if he finally succeeded in getting this leg to do what he wanted, the others in the meantime, as if set free, waved all the more wildly in painful and frenzied agitation."

-Franz Kafka, 'The Metamorphosis' (translated by Donna Freed)

A few years after reading The MetamorphosisI started writing articles for a movie blog called Criticide. One particular week, having not watched any of the movies that were out in theaters, I decided to pay homage to Franz Kafka by writing a fake movie review for a fake film adaptation of The Metamorphosis. The fake review was titled "Being Franz Kafka."

Around the same time that I was writing for Criticide, I started working on my debut novel, Inside the Outside. Had I not been introduced to The Metamorphosis, there's no telling what story I might've written. But, because of Kafka, I felt emboldened. He made me feel like it was okay to embrace my imagination, to write the sort of (strange, dark, surreal) stories I found most interesting. Were it not for Kafka, I have no reason to believe that Timber Marlow—the cannibal heroine of my novel—would ever have been born. I knew this even as I was writing my novel and, wanting to pay tribute to Kafka's story, I made it part of my book:

Before reading The Metamorphosis, I assumed that the world of academia was a place for "proper" stories. Perhaps because I spent so much time in the exercise of literary analysis, I was haunted by the notion that my stories wouldn't be taken seriously. 

They wouldn't be discussed in classrooms or written about in term papers. And, while I knew that's not what made a story good or bad, I couldn't help but feel slighted.  I felt that way all the way until I read The Metamorphosis. 

So, for me, Franz Kafka literally changed my perception of what literature could be. Because of him, I learned there was a place for writers like me. Or, at least, a place for the writer that I hoped one day to become.

Mortality

Christopher Hitchens died a year ago on December 15, 2011, after suffering from esophageal cancer. He fought the disease off for over a year, before succumbing to his inevitable fate—the same fate that awaits all of us. It's no fun to think about, yet Hitchens, a brilliant writer and thinker, did that and more.

He spent his final months writing about the process of facing death; the essays that came from his writing have been posthumously published into a poignant memoir called Mortality.

"It's normally agreed that the question 'How are you today?' doesn't put you on your oath to give a full or honest answer. So when asked these days, I tend to say something cryptic like, 'A bit early to say.' (If it's the wonderful staff at my oncology clinic who inquire, I sometimes go so far as to respond, 'I seem to have cancer today.')"

-Christopher Hitchens, 'Mortality'

I don't think it's a stretch to say one of my great regrets is I'll never have an opportunity to meet Hitchens in person, especially since I feel like I've come to know him so well these past few years. He was smug in a charming sort of way. He had a robust air of confidence about him, palpable through the TV screen. His confidence, it seemed, was fueled by his intellect. He was a man who knew things—a lot of things. And, of course, he was a man who knew he knew things, which for some might of made him insufferable, but, for me, made him completely engaging.

He first came to my attention when he was a panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher. I forget the exact year, but I know it was nearly a decade ago, as he was speaking favorably of President George W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. I assumed that, since I didn't agree with America going to war in Iraq, I wouldn't agree with anything else Hitchens had to say. It was a knee-jerk reaction; one, it seems, most Americans have about anybody who holds opinions contrary to their own. But, as Hitchens spoke, it became clear to me that he was thoughtful, highly intelligent, and had intellectually grounded reasons for believing what he did. I appreciated that about him.

I don't remember anything else he talked about that night; I do, however, remember liking him a great deal. After that, I started noticing Hitchens everywhere, from cable news programs to the shelves of Barnes & Noble. I picked up his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens, if you weren't already aware, was one of the worlds most well-known and outspoken atheists. The title of the book itself was indicative of Hitchens spirit, which was to speak in plain and unapologetic language about issues that most folks feel a need to tiptoe around. And, of course, when reading the book, I came to find exactly what I expected: thoughtful and intellectual prose about a topic in which Hitchens was exceedingly informed, more so than most of the people who would assume him to be wrong.

In Mortality, Hitchens spends a fair amount of time reflecting on matters of religion and how they intersect with matters of death. He shares an entry from an unamed website in which the messenger writes: "Who else feels Christopher Hitchens getting terminal throat cancer [sic] was God's revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him?" It goes on to say that Hitchens would "writhe in agony and pain and wither away to nothing and then die a horrible agonizing death, and THEN comes the real fun, when he's sent to HELLFIRE forever to be tortured and set afire." While I wasn't there when Hitchens first read these remarks, I like to imagine that, rather than feeling hurt by them, they provided a source of amusement. Hitchens was well-versed in all the major religions, having studied them on the page and engaging with them all around the world.

"[W]ould this anonymous author want his views to be read by my unoffending children, who are also being given a hard time in their way, and by the same god? [And] why not a thunderbolt for yours truly, or something similarly awe-inspiring? The vengeful deity has a sadly depleted arsenal if all he can think of is exactly the cancer that my age and former 'lifestyle' would suggest that I got. [And] why cancer at all? Almost all men get cancer of the prostate if they live long enough: It's an undignified thing but quite evenly distributed among saints and sinners, believers and unbelievers. If you maintain that god awards the appropriate cancers, you must also account for the numbers of infants who contract leukemia. Devout persons have died young and in pain."

-Christopher Hitchens, 'Mortality'   

As I read Mortality, I was continuously  struck by the realization that the vibrant voice on the page, buzzing with life as it did, came from a man who had not lived long enough to see his book published. And, more than that, the words on the page came from a man who, while facing death, was still holding out hope that he might survive his disease. In fact, some of the more bittersweet passages in the book are when Hitchens writes about encouraging doctor visits and experimental treatments; as he was writing, he didn't yet know that the encouragement of those visits would be short lived, that the treatments would ultimately be for naught.

Even in these thoughts, weighted as they are with sadness, I'm brightened by the inherit optimism of their promise. While Christopher Hitchens' body was mortal, his words are quite the opposite. One of the great reliefs I felt upon publishing my first book, Inside the Outside, was that my words would now live long after I died. In my fervent effort to complete my novel, I was constantly pressed by the morbid thought of dying before having an opportunity to complete it. So, for me, reading Mortality was something of an affirmation, a testmanet to the death-defying nature of our words.

While we never met, I will always consider Christopher Hitchens a friend, so long as his prose rests on my shelves. And whenever I care to speak with my pal Hitch, I need only to turn the page and say hello.

*          *          *

The Future Bank Robber: Choices and Consequences in Fiction Writing

Every choice you've ever made throughout the entirety of your life—every good experience enjoyed, every bad experience endured—has led you to this very moment, reading my blog post. I don't know about you, but, for me, that's pretty amazing to think about. Let's say, for example, you're 50 years old and, for the last 50 years, you've made a million different choices. When you were a kid, for instance, you decided that one day to go outside and play basketball, instead of studying for your test. There was also that one time where your cousin was having a birthday party and, since you didn't have any money for a gift, you gave her your favorite teddy bear. Then there was the time where you very nearly got into a fist fight with your boss and, thankfully, you turned your back and walked away.

All of these choices shaped you as a human being, making you into the person you are today. But, more importantly, they also served to carve your path in the world. We float around this life like pinballs and every choice we make sets us off into a a different direction. Sometimes the angles are sharp and obvious, other times they're subtle and imperceptible. Which brings me back to my original point: every single choice you've ever made in your whole life has led you to the exact moment you are currently existing in. This, in a nutshell, is what storytelling is all about.

Choices and consequences.

There's a brilliant scene in No Country for Old Men when the film's antagonist, Anton Chigurh, goes into a dusty, old gas station. Chigurh engages the kindly old man behind the counter in a conversation; the old man quickly realizes there are dire implications just beneath the surface of the words they're exchanging. At the core of what they're talking about is the notion of choices and consequences. The old man's been making choices all his life, choices which have brought him face-to-face with a psychopath. Chigurh prepares to flip a coin and asks the old man to call heads or tails. While Chigurh doesn't say as much, it's very, very clear that the choice the old man makes will determine whether he lives or dies.

When I write a novel, I try always to be aware of my characters motivation, because that's what drives the choices they make. If, for example, I'm writing a story about a bank robbery, I need to know what my character's motivation was for robbing that bank. Perhaps, the bank robber's child is sick and in need of medical attention, but he doesn't have the money to pay for it. That works for that one moment, but there were other moments—thousands of them—that led to the bank robbery, moments that had nothing to do with hospitals and progeny. Before the child was ever born for instance, the future bank robber was in a bar, having a drink and watching a basketball game. There were two girls in the bar, each of them sitting alone. The future bank robber was single at the time and, while he was never very good at meeting women in bars, he found himself feeling uncharacteristically brave.

He finds both women equally attractive and would like to meet them both, but, for the moment, he can only talk to one. So he chooses. He and the chosen woman hit it off and, almost immediately, begin a whirlwind romance. The romance, while exciting for a brief period of time, ends almost as suddenly as it begins. He doesn't hear from the chosen woman for a number of weeks, until one day she calls him out of the blue to tell him she's pregnant. He'd never planned on being a father and isn't the least bit happy to hear this news. But, nine months later, his son is born and the future bank robber loves him immediately. He holds his boy in the hospital, only a few hours old, and swears that he'll do right by him, swears that he'll spend the rest of his life loving and protecting this child. And then, one day, a few years later, the future bank robber gets a call from the boy's mother. She tells him something about a routine doctors appointment and abnormalities in a blood test and x-rays and surgery and probabilities for survival. It doesn't matter, the future bank robber tells her, he'll do whatever it takes. She tells him it's going to take money. Lots of money. Money that the future bank robber doesn't have. Not yet, anyway.

What the future bank robber is too distraught to think about is this:

What if he'd talked to the other woman in the bar instead?

When I'm thinking about the choices and consequences of my characters, it generally works one of two ways. If for example, I know I have a character who will eventually rob a bank (because I've already decided I want to write that story) then I will work backwards and try to imagine what sort of chain of events might logically lead to that outcome. That's the first way.

The second way is when I have a character who says or does something that I wasn't expecting (which might sound strange if you've never tried writing a story). Say, for example, my character's having a bad day so I put him in a bar to have a drink. I'd like something interesting to happen, so I let him have a conversation with the gal next to him. I had no idea before writing that scene that they would get along so well, but I like the chemistry, so I keep following their story until they have a child who, in a few years, will need urgent medical attention.

There's no one right way to write a story. Talk to 100 different writers and you'll get 100 different philosophies. But any writer worth their salt can tell you that choices matter. If you want to be a writer, be prepared to let your characters make choices. Be prepared also to allow those choices to play out in the most honest and sincere manner you can imagine, even if it takes your story in a direction you weren't originally planning to go.

Inside the Outside: Paris Book Festival Grand Prize Winner!

I'm in a state of shock. Numb is probably more accurate.

No, no... overwhelmed is more apt.

Inside the Outside, my debut novel, won the Grand Prize in the 2012 Paris Book Festival. I found out a couple of hours ago and, quite frankly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this tremendous honor.  It's nearly two o'clock in the morning as I type this and there's no telling if I'll ever get to sleep again. Between you and me, I don't want to go to sleep, just in case this is all a dream.

This is the first major award for Inside the Outside and, even if it turns out to be the last, I'll still be satisfied. Along with the honor itself, the award comes with a cash prize and a flight to Paris. I've never been anywhere near Europe, let alone Paris.  And to think that my first trip there will be to accept my first major literary honor...

I just can't find the words.

I hope folks like Will Entrekin, Kat and Cara (The BiblioBabes), Joanna Penn, and everybody else who loved this book when it seemed like nobody else would pay attention to it will enjoy this honor with me. I hope writers all over the world who are struggling to make a mark and feel like their break may never come will find some glimmer of inspiration in the knowledge that, not too long ago, I'd nearly lost all hope of ever having a writing career.

As is the case with many writers, I sought to get published through the traditional route of acquiring a literary agent who would get me a book deal. After sending out dozens of query letters and receiving dozens of rejections, I found myself at a crossroads. I believed strongly in my book and I knew there was an audience for it, so I had to decide if I wanted to keep trekking down the traditional route or if I wanted to take the risk of publishing my book independently.

It was a terrifying decision, but, after much consideration, I decided to gamble on independent publishing. Part of my concern was the general stigma that is still attached to indie publishing. I worried that my novel, right or wrong, would be adversely affected by this stigma.

Even when I made my decision and began taking steps to move forward, I still questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing. And even after I published Inside the Outside, I still had occasional doubts. So, as much as anything else, this award offers me tremendous validation, not only of my novel, but of my decision to publish it on my own.

Of course, a trip to Paris won't be so bad, either.

My KDP Free Experience | PART 2

(Read "My KDP Free Experience | PART 1" HERE)

So, it's been a little more than a week since my KDP free promotion for Inside the Outside ended and I figured it was about time I shared the aftermath. Here are my notes regarding the fifth and final day of the promotion:

DAY 5 | February 24

  • 1:00am – 2000 downloads (#18 in Horror)
  • 8:00am – 2046 downloads (#12 in Horror)
  • 6:00pm – 2225 downloads (#20 in Horror)
  • 11:00pm – 2275 downloads (#23 in Horror)

And that's where I left off. After a long and busy week promoting Inside the Outside, I was exhausted and couldn't stay awake until midnight to see what the final tally of free downloads was.

This is an important detail to have missed out on, because one of the stats I wanted to keep track of was how many books I sold (if any) after the promotion was over.  Since KDP (as of this writing) doesn't differentiate between books downloaded for free and books paid for, I don't know the precise cutoff. But, what I do know is that there were more downloads after I fell asleep at 11:00pm.

February 25 | Post Promo Day 1

  • 9:00am – 2083 downloads (#65,229 in Kindle Store)

Since I have no real way of knowing, I'll assume (for the sake of this post) that 2083 was the final tally of free kindle copies of Inside the Outside downloaded during the promotion; assuming this is true, there were 8 free downloads in the final hour.

One of my hopes with doing this promotion was that it would lead to book sales in the aftermath and, I'm happy to report, it did. Unfortunately, there weren't an avalanche of book sales. I kept notes for just a few days, as needed, and here is the final note I made through February:

February 29 | Post Promo Day 4

  • 11:00pm – 2099 downloads (#23,067 in Kindle Store)

So, subtracting the presumed number of free downloads (2083), that means I sold 16 books at the end of the promotion through the end of February. I have mixed feelings about those 16 books sold.

On the one hand, I'm almost embarrassed to admit some disappointment; I'd hoped that maybe the momentum of the promotion would lead to book sales in the 100s.  But, on the other hand, I'm quite grateful, because February had been a particularly slow month for Inside the Outside and, before the promotion, I'd sold only 3 copies in the Kindle Store. If my math is correct (and I'm sure it's not) that means I increased my book sales from the beginning of the month by 500%.

One promising thing about those book sales is, not long before I started the free promotion, I raised the price of Inside the Outside in the Kindle Store from $0.99 to $4.99. Along with the obvious advantage of earning more money per book, the price change also increases my royalties from 35% to 70%. This means that those folks who bought the book after the promotion ended weren't deterred by the $4.99 price tag, which, admittedly, I felt was something of a gamble (but that's a topic I'll save for another post).

But, more than the dollars and cents, I'm thrilled to know that there are now more than 3,000 copies of Inside the Outside living in Kindles throughout the U.S. and the U.K. (during the free promotion, Inside the Outside reached #38 in Amazon U.K.'s Top 100 free horror books).

How many of those folks will actually read Inside the Outside? I have no idea. I'm certain that a fair number of those readers, like so many of us, simply enjoy collecting free stuff, and likely will never read one page of my novel. But even if a quarter of those people who downloaded the book decide to read it, then that's roughly 750 new readers.

And that's a number that would make my KDP free experience an unqualified success.

My Time in Prison

On Wednesday, February 1, 2012, I went to prison.

It was a great day.

I visited the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), Victorville, where I was invited to speak to the inmates and give a seminar on creative writing.

The FCC runs the program through their Educational Department in conjunction with the California Writers Club, High Desert (CWCHD).  When, nearly two months ago, Bob Isbill, the President of the CWCHD, asked if I'd be interested in talking to the inmates, I jumped at the opportunity.

On the morning of February 1, I drove up to the High Desert to meet Bob at his house, where I met his equally lovely wife, before he and I headed off to FCC Victorville. As we entered the doors of the visiting area, we had to pass through security, which isn't unlike going through the airport.

I removed my shoes and belt, placed them in a small plastic tub, then stepped through the metal detector. Bob and I waited for a few minutes, until we were greeted by our escort.

The escort led us through the yard, which, honestly, was a bit intimidating on account of all the movies, TV shows, and documentaries that I've seen (not to mention nightmares I've had) about prison.

"It's quiet right now," he told us, as we moved through the empty yard. "But they'll be coming out soon."

There are 20 inmates in the writing program and, as Bob told me, there's plenty more who'd like to get in. There is, however, a cap put on the number of inmates that can be a part of it; those who are in the program must pass through a series of hurdles, while also exhibiting good behavior, in order to be elegible. Because my presentation was regarded as a special event, they opened it up to more inmates and, in all, 85 men showed up.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a certain level of anxiety when, while I sat at the front of the chapel, I watched the inmates entering and taking their seats. It was their khaki jumpsuits that made it all sort of real for me. These were real men who'd committed real crimes and were serving real time. And I was an outsider on their turf.

Rusty LaGrange, who is also part of the CWCHD, gave me a very kind introduction, after which I began speaking to the roomful of 85 inmates. I spoke about novel writing for about 20 minutes or so, before doing a Q & A with the inmates. The men of FCC Victorville had lots of great questions and we talked for well over an hour. And while I never completely forgot where I was, I did, for the great majority of my time there, forget I was in the company of prison inmates and simply saw them as an audience of men enthusiastic to talk about creative writing. When our time was up and the Q & A came to an end, I was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a beautiful plaque.

Following the Q & A, there was time allowed for a meet and greet, giving me an opportunity to speak with many of the inmates one on one. Some had questions about writing and publishing, while others simply wanted to say thank you. A few even told me they were going to ask their families to buy Inside the Outside and send it to the prison for them to read. In all, I couldn't have asked for a kinder or more gracious audience.

As we were escorted out of the chapel and I waved goodbye to the inmates, I was immediately reminded of the two separate worlds we inhabited. While I was off to the Hesperia Library to prepare for another presentation later that evening, the inmates of FCC Victorville would go back to their daily reality of being prisoners in a federal penitentiary. I can only hope that my visit served to inspire them as much as they inspired me.

And now that I'm out, I can't wait to go back to prison.

The Circle of (a Writer’s) Life: PART 2

When my friend and former writing professor, James Brown, invited me to speak to the students of his Advanced Creative Writing class, I was both excited and honored. In July of 2011 I officially became an indie author with the publication of my novel, Inside the Outside. Brown's students, being in the MFA program, will all presumably look to have their own work published one day and so he thought it'd be good for them to hear about my experience as an independent publisher. He'd set up Tuesday, November 15, 2011, as my day to speak. I spent quite a lot of time thinking about the presentation I wanted to give and the things I wanted to tell the students.

I wanted to tell them that I remember what it's like to sit where they're sitting, to work so hard on your craft without any real promise that you'll see your work in print. I wanted to tell them that I can relate to the anxiety and desperation that comes when you start sending your work out to agents and publishers, only to be met with rejection time and time again. I wanted to tell them about how I spent two years working on my "first" novel, only to have it rejected by every agent I sent it to, before spending another five years working on the novel that would become Inside the Outside, which, despite much interest from agents, was also soundly rejected. I wanted to tell them that when the time came for them to publish their own work that they had other options, that they weren't beholden to the system of traditional publishing, that there was more than one way to share their work with the world.

And while, when the time came, I spent over an hour speaking to Brown's students (who, incidentally, were both gracious and welcoming) about the pragmatics of independent publishing, what I really wanted to convey was hope. Because, the unfortunate truth about being a writer, or an artist of any discipline, is that, when you choose to pursue a career in your craft, you will be met by a seemingly endless line of people who want to tell you no, to turn around, to knock on someone else's door, or, perhaps, to stop trying altogether. Most of those people will never understand what it means to invest the whole of your heart into an artistic endeavor, to invest your love and imagination into something that, were it not for you, would not exist at all. And most of those people, the ones who say no, will never truly understand the crushing disappointment that exists on the other side of their rejection.

Because I know only too well that this is the world that many of Brown's students will one day enter, I wanted, more than anything, to provide them with the knowledge that there is another way. It's a road that strays from the traditional path, a road lined with the footsteps of rebels and mavericks. A road lit by the rays of hope, leading to a place where writers are free to take control of their own destiny.

The Circle of (a Writer's) Life: PART 1

In the fall of 2001 I transferred to California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), to study English and earn my Bachelor's degree. I was terribly excited to learn, soon after my arrival, that, within the English program, there was a creative writing discipline. I, of course, joined that track and away I went. Up to that point, I'd been toiling away at learning the craft of fiction writing on my own and, while I felt I was pretty good at it, I knew I wasn't where I wanted to be. So having an opportunity to learn about creative writing in the classroom from successful writers was a dream come true.

Unfortunately, the very first creative writing course I took at CSUSB was a less than positive experience. The professor, who was a successful novelist within her genre, wasn't very good at encouraging her students, let alone teaching us about the craft. More than once, she told us about how competitive and difficult it would be for any of us to get published (which is true) without offering any sort of silver lining. Beyond that, the feedback I received on my short stories was generally discouraging. Being that she was so successful, I was wiling to assume that she knew better than me and I came to the conclusion that I just wasn't a very good writer.

So, after the class was over, I decided to quit writing altogether, choosing instead to study literature. I did, after all, still enjoy reading, so I figured I'd become a literature scholar and that would help make up for the fact that I was a terrible creative writer. However, about six or seven months later, I found that I still had a jonze for creative writing that I couldn't quite shake. Even if I was terrible at it, I loved doing it—this despite not having written anything of substance since that first disastrous class. So I decided to take one more creative writing class, before quitting for good and focussing on other things.

The class I signed up for was being taught by James Brown, author of the acclaimed memoirs The Los Angeles Diaries and This River. Brown had been successfully writing and publishing for about 30 years when I showed up in his class, so, unbeknownst to him, I quietly decided to give him the last word.  If Brown's opinion of my writing resembled that of my previous professor, then I would take it as an unmistakable sign that it was time for me to give it up.

As it turned out, Brown was both exceedingly encouraging  as well as a great teacher. Slowly, but surely, I rediscovered my confidence and my writing flourished. I took as many classes as I could with Brown until I finished my academic career in 2006 with a Master's degree in composition.

Five years later, I'm still using the tools I gathered while under Brown's watch—the very same tools, in fact, that would become indispensable  in the writing of my debut novel, Inside the Outside. Since graduating, I've entered into my own career of being an English professor, embracing the opportunity to positively impact students the way Brown did with me.

And now, this week, my writing life will be coming full circle, as James Brown has invited me to be a guest speaker in the Advanced Creative Class he teaches in the MFA program at CSUSB. I'm so tremendously excited and honored to go back to my alma mater and stand in the same room where I learned my craft, to meet and talk to students who sit where I once sat, and to offer whatever knowledge I can to help encourage them as they prepare to embark on their own writing journeys...

To be continued in "The Circle of (a Writer's) Life: PART 2."

Why Isn't This Dude Famous?

In the summer of 2009, my girlfriend, Chanel, invited me to join her and a group of friends to watch a stage production of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The story is about a fictional rock band whose lead singer is a transgender East German man named Hedwig. The play, written by John Cameron Mitchell, originally premiered off-Broadway in 1998. In 2001, Mitchell's play was produced by Killer Films into a brilliant film. Consequently, Hedwig has developed an intensely loyal cult following.

While I had previously seen the film, I think it’s only fair that I tell you I didn’t watch it willingly. I knew next to nothing about it, however, based on the little bit I did know, it just didn’t sound like anything I’d enjoy. As it turns out, I loved every single moment of it and I could hardly believe I almost didn’t watch it. So, suffice it to say, when Chanel invited me to go with her and her friends to watch a live production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I jumped at the opportunity.

And so, on a Wednesday night in the middle of June, we all headed out to The Empire Theatre in Santa Ana where Theatre Out—a gay and lesbian theater company based in Orange County—puts on its shows. The theatre itself, set in Santa Ana's Artists Village, didn’t look particularly theatrical from the outside and, if you didn’t already know there was a production being put on, you might not notice it at all. Passing through the lobby, we entered the stage area, which was surprisingly small, not much bigger than a classroom.

The walls and floor were concrete, and the stage wasn’t so much a stage as it was a designated area in the corner of the room. I don’t imagine there were more than 30 or 40 seats in there; each and every seat, however, was filled by the time the show began. Nonetheless, I couldn’t imagine how they were going to put on this show in such a small space. That is, of course, until Darius Rose entered the room.

Darius Rose, the star of the show, didn’t simply play the title role of Hedwig—he embodied it. His performance was out-of-this-world amazing, from his powerful singing voice to his mesmerizing acting ability. The character of Hedwig is, to the say least, complex on many levels and Rose managed to express all of Hedwig’s complexities with brilliant humor and heartbreaking pathos. And as I sat in that small, concrete theater on a Wednesday night in the middle of Santa Ana watching a brilliant actor on the top of his game, I couldn’t help but wonder—why isn’t this dude famous?

His performance deserved to be captured on film and projected onto the big screen. He should have been whisked off on an international promotional tour, giving interviews and making TV appearances. He should be having power lunches with Harvey and Bob Weinstein and brainstorming with the Cohen Brothers. There should be rumors regarding his personal life in the tabloids and sightings of him on TMZ. His name should regularly come up during awards season and he should be making brilliant cameo appearances on Glee.

Yet, despite the abundance of ability he has to offer, he is a relatively anonymous actor. And that’s a shame. Because for all of the actors in Hollywood that are household names, far too many of them don’t have the talent to validate their celebrity. And then there are actors like Darius Rose who have talent to spare, but are underutilized and, generally speaking, under-appreciated.

Now, I’ve never met Darius Rose and I can’t speak to the aspirations he has for his acting career, but I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t feel at least a little slighted for not being a bigger name in entertainment. But during that Wednesday night in Santa Ana, watching him perform, I got the impression that Rose didn’t feel slighted or bitter. I suspect, whether you put him in front of an audience of 30 or 3,000, he would be satisfied for the opportunity to simply exercise his craft. And it was this idea of simply enjoying one’s craft for its own sake that resonated with me for days and weeks after I saw Darius Rose’s performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

As a writer, I'd spent many years thinking that nothing less than a lucrative book deal with a major publisher and bestseller status would make me happy. Thoughts of settling for a small press or, God forbid, independent publishing felt akin to giving up. I had spent many years learning my craft and many more years working on my novel, so why, I would ask myself, would I settle for anything less? And then I watched Darius Rose completely mesmerize the 30 or 40 folks that were audience to his performance. I realized that even if he only affected one person that night, then his brilliant performance would not have been in vain.

So kudos to Darius Rose, Theatre Out, and any other artist out there who hasn’t forgotten why art exists at all and why we love it so much.

The Los Angeles Diaries

I’m not a big fan of autobiographies, but I love memoirs. Where an autobiography tells an individual’s life story, more or less, a memoir focuses on a specific aspect of an individual’s life. And while autobiographies are the sole territory of celebrities and public figures, in so far as the publishing industry is concerned, the memoir section of your local bookstore is bound to be dominated by relatively anonymous folks with really amazing stories to tell. In the last five or ten years, it seems the most commercially successful memoirs revolve around human tragedies—especially if those tragedies are followed up with any sort of triumph or redemption.

One of my very favorite memoirs is The Los Angeles Diaries by James Brown. While—for reasons that I’ll never fathom—it wasn’t a commercial success, it has garnered a well-earned cult following. In it, Brown writes about his life as an alcoholic and drug addict.

“All the stores on Hollywood Boulevard are closed for the night, and I duck into the alcove of a souvenir shop, drop a rock into the pipe and light up. My back is to the street and at first, when I feel a wave of heat pass over me, I think it’s on account of the dope, the rush. That it’s powerful stuff. But then it happens again, an even stronger wave along the back of my neck, and that’s when I realize that it’s coming from behind me. Turning, I see it: The building directly across the street is immersed in fire. And it’s a beautiful sight.”

-James Brown, "The Los Angeles Diaries"

I was first introduced to The Los Angeles Diaries when I was an English major at Cal State San Bernardino (or CSUSB). I'd transferred to CSUSB in 2001 and was excited to find out that, within the English program, CSUSB offered an emphasis in creative writing. Up to that point, I’d spent a few years trying to learn the craft on my own. Despite the encouragement of my friends and family, who all seemed to enjoy my short stories, I felt very limited in my abilities. I had what I thought to be loads of creative ideas, however I lacked the appropriate tools to turn those ideas into engaging literary prose.

My first creative writing class at CSUSB was something of a disaster. The professor—who I will not name here—was (and is, I suspect) a very accomplished author, whose career has been decorated with awards and accolades. I was thrilled to sit at the feet of a professional author, somebody who had been to the place I wanted to be and, better yet, could give me some insight on how to get there. I showed up to that class filled with confidence and ambition. By the end of the fall quarter, the professor had managed to strip me of all said confidence and ambition. Going into winter break, I decided to quit writing.

When I told my girlfriend, Chanel, that I was quitting writing, she asked why.

“I’m no good at it,” I told her.

“Yes, you are,” she said.

“No, seriously,” I said, “I’m really not.”

“You’re a great writer,” she said.

“I know you think that,” I said, “but I’m really bad at it.”

“No,” she said, defiantly, “you’re not.”

I found myself getting frustrated with her. She simply didn’t know enough about writing, I told myself, to realize I was no good. But no matter how vehemently I tried to convince her, she refused to believe me.

“If you want to quit,” she said, “that’s fine. But will you do me a favor?”

“What is it?”

“Will you write stories just for me?”

“Why?”

“I love your writing,” she said. “So, even if you think your stories are terrible, I still want to read them.”

It seemed reasonable enough. She could go on with the delusion that I was any good and I could take comfort that only one person in the world would have to suffer my writing. So I worked on a short story that had been in my head about a secret criminal enterprise that was fronted by a children’s show starring a clown named Krazy Karl. I never finished the story, but the writing I did served as something of a bridge from the fall to the spring quarter, at which point I decided that I would try one more creative writing class, before quitting for good. So, in the spring of 2002, I registered for a class taught by James Brown.

I had never heard of Brown before and I didn’t learn until the first day of class that, like my previous professor, he was an accomplished author with a handful of novels under his belt and a forthcoming memoir, which he told us was called The Los Angeles Diaries. He seemed like a nice and reasonable man, so I felt comfortable putting the fate of my writing life in his hands. If Brown had nothing good to say about my writing, as was the case with the previous professor, then I would take it as a sign. In fact, I was in such a hurry to find out—once and for all—that I was wasting my time as a writer, I volunteered for the first workshop of the class.

I submitted a revised version of the story I had previously workshopped in my first creative writing class about a teenage boy who is terrorized by three bald men driving a rusty orange pickup truck; they follow him home, tie him to a chair and go through an eccentric ceremony, before shaving his head.

During the course of the workshop, Brown had favorable things to say about both my writing and the story. He had critiques, of course, but they were tactful and constructive. His encouragement lit a fire in my belly and I couldn’t wait to start working on my new revisions, especially since, in between workshops, Brown spent time talking about the craft of creative writing, giving me the tools I had longed for.

Later that year, the English department at CSUSB hosted a reading featuring Brown and The Los Angeles Diaries. I took Chanel with me and we sat in a crowd of people that, ironically enough, included the aforementioned writing professor (who will remain nameless). Brown read from the chapter “Snapshot,” which is the story of his mother burning down an apartment building and all the repercussions this action would have on their family.

“I’m waiting in the car for my mother while she sets fire to an apartment building down the street. I’m five years old. The car is a new Thunderbird with big seats that still smell of fresh vinyl, and the street where we are parked is lined with sycamores that have begun to shed their leaves. It is early in the evening. We are in a quiet working-class neighborhood in San Jose, California, fifty miles south of San Francisco along Highway 101, and when my mother returns to the car, slightly out of breath, we drive to Fisherman’s Wharf and have shrimp cocktails for dinner.”

-James Brown, “The Los Angeles Diaries”

I was struck by the simplicity of his sentences. There was nothing fancy about Brown’s writing; however, the cadence of his prose was methodical and deliberate, hypnotic even. As he read, his seemingly simple prose systematically painted a picture full of genuine emotion and poignancy.  By the end, I was thoroughly impressed by Brown’s mastery of the craft. I was also grateful that the man who wrote so beautifully was the same man who was mentoring me in my own pursuit to master the craft.

A few months later, I went to Barnes and Noble to buy The Los Angeles Diaries on the first day it was available. As I read it, I got the sense Brown was trying to piece together the fragments of his life, to look at it all with a sober eye, hoping to discover, through the therapeutic process of writing, how his life turned out the way it did. There are no easy answers in The Los Angeles Diaries and Brown is too wise to pretend he has any. And while Brown’s story is filled with tragedies—some unnecessary, some unavoidable—it is not without hope.

Every time I pick up The Los Angeles Diaries, I find myself feeling grateful all over again. Not just for Brown’s honest and unflinching portrayal of his life, but also for the unwitting hand he played in resuscitating my confidence and ambition. I can say with complete confidence that if it weren’t for James Brown, not only wouldn’t I be writing this blog post right now, I wouldn’t be writing at all—except, of course, for the stories Chanel would invariably have forced out of me.

5 Blogs Every Indie Writer Should Bookmark

I got into the blogging game primarily to create an online presence for myself. I wanted there to be sort of an Internet headquarters for my readers (present and future) to come see what was happening with me or any news surrounding my debut novel, Inside the Outside. The more time I spent working on my own blog, the more I started noticing other blogs. I started to appreciate them more now that I had a better idea of what it took to put one together. Amongst the many blogs I started noticing, I was thrilled to find out that there are lots of folks out there with great blogs about books and publishing. And every time I discover one of these cool blogs, I add it to my bookmarks, as any self-respecting web surfer would do. Well, after recently looking over my growing list of bookmarked blogs, it occurred to me that I should share them with my readers—put the ol’ Martin Spotlight™ on them, as it were. Even if their sites already get more traffic than mine does (which I assume is the case with all of them), I figured a little extra shine couldn't hurt. The blogs that I primarily frequent are not only about writing (in some form or fashion) but are also beneficial to other writers (in one way or another). So, without any further ado, here are, in no particular order, five blogs that every indie writer should have bookmarked…

IndieReader.com
IndieReader.com

1. IndieReader

I first became aware of IndieReader when I was surfing the Internet for news about—uber-successful indie author—Amanda Hocking. And, sufficed it say, I stuck around because I loved the site. IndieReader was founded by Amy Edelman, a publicist and writer who has been both self-published and traditionally published. The thing I especially love about IndieReader is its support in promoting self-published authors, rightfully equating the singularity of their voice and vision—from writing to publishing—with the indie mavericks and auteurs of the film industry.

BestDamnCreativeWritingBlog.com
BestDamnCreativeWritingBlog.com

2. The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog

I assume The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog found the inspiration for its name from the now-cancelled television program The Best Damn Sports Show Period. As both a sports lover and a book lover, I appreciate the allusion, even if it’s all in my head. Now, with regards to the blog itself, The BDCWB offers news, essays and commentary about the publishing industry. Among other things, you can expect to find everything from posts about dating sites for book lovers to interviews with bestselling authors.

SelfPublishingReview.com
SelfPublishingReview.com

3. Self-Publishing Review

Self-Publishing Review is near and dear to my heart, because their core purpose is to legitimatize self-publishing as a viable option for writers looking to see their work in print. They go about doing this by, among other things, posting book reviews, publisher reviews, interviews, and news. And a particularly cool feature of the site is they allow outside writers to contribute their own blog posts (they are, of course, moderated).  Even if you're not a self-published author, but are thinking about it, you'll find that Self-Publishing Review is a great resource.

book designer
book designer

4. The Book Designer

The Book Designer is a great blog geared towards helping independent publishers and authors get to market with a great looking, properly constructed book, on time and on budget.  The brain behind The Book Designer is Joel Friedlander, a successful indie author and publisher himself.  Friedlander's blog covers a myriad of important topics that all indie publishers need to be familiar with, from editing and designing to marketing and promoting.

TheCreativePenn.com
TheCreativePenn.com

5. The Creative Penn

Okay, first of all, I have to say that Joanna Penn, founder of The Creative Penn, is adorable. If you don’t believe me, check out her “About Me” video. Penn is an author, blogger, speaker and business consultant based in London, England. Her mission for The Creative Penn is to help people who are interested in writing and publishing, as well as authors who want to gain insight on the marketing and promotion of their books on the Internet. What a swell gal, huh?

And there you have it.  Five blogs every indie writer should have bookmarked (what are you waiting for?!). Now, just to be clear, these aren’t the only five blogs I frequent. I just figured, for the sake of this first go, five seemed like a reasonable number. I look forward to featuring other blogs I enjoy, so keep an eye out for those. Also, if you have a blog that you think I’ll love, send it my way. And if I love it (or, at the very least, like it a lot), I’ll be more than happy to shine the ol’ Martin Spotlight™ in your direction.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some blogs to read.

The Collective Intelligence of the Twitterverse

On a lazy Friday afternoon in the middle of August, just 10 years into the new millennium—by which I mean, yesterday—I joined Twitter.

It was a big day for me, joining Twitter.  And my life hasn’t been the same since.  Mainly because, before yesterday, I wasn’t a tweeter (is “tweeter” even the appropriate noun? For an English professor, I’m not really much of a grammarian).  I wasn’t really sure I saw the point in it.  But, as an author, it occurred to me (as it has to a couple million other artists looking to bring awareness to their work) that Twitter might very well be something I should look into.

Since yesterday—which, again, was my first day on Twitter—I’ve tweeted exactly eight times.  Is that too much?  Not enough?  Seriously, I have no idea.  Of those eight, half are original tweets, while the other half are re-tweets.  And as of this blog post, I am following 103 tweeters.  Is that appropriate?  Am I entering obsessive stalker category?  Or am I underachieving?  As for followers, I’ve acquired 13 since yesterday.  Am I lighting the world on fire?  Or should I be horribly ashamed?

While my primary purpose for being on Twitter is to bring attention to my writing, I don’t want to be the asshole who only promotes stuff.  But when it does come time to slip a shameless plug into Twitter, do I couch it in what appears to be a 140-character witticism or is that an insult to the collective intelligence of the Twitterverse?

In fact, if it hasn’t become clear enough already, the primary purpose of this particular blog post is to write about Twitter simply so I can tweet it.  In this way, I told myself, I could tweet a link to my website, thereby promoting myself, but because the medium by which I would be delivering it would be directly related to said link, it would shield me from any perceived doucheiness.

Now, of course, you may be thinking: If he tells us what he is trying to get away with, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of trying to get away with it?  The answer, of course, is yes.  I have, in fact, defeated my own purpose.  And, you may be glad to hear, I’ve done so out of respect for you.  I knew, long before I hatched my scheme, that you were too smart to fall for it.  Therefore, I decided to fill you in on it.  In this way I’d be offering a nod and a wink in your direction, my subtle little way of making you aware of my awareness of your awareness.

But, more than that, it is my attempt to appeal to your sense of ethos.  I want to show you that I am an honest guy.  I’m not here to pull the wool over your eyes.  I’m not trying to get away with anything.  If I say it, you can believe it.  So let me be even more upfront with you: Not only am I writing a post on my website for the sole purpose of promoting myself on Twitter, but I’ll also be posting this very same link on Facebook.  So, yes, I’ll be engaging in a virtual orgy of social-networking.  Shameful, I know.

In the end, it is my sincere belief that the men and women of the Twitterverse are a good people. A kind people. A forgiving people.

So, my fellow Twitteronians, I beg your forgiveness for this and any other future offenses to your world.