Angry New Yorker dude made this guy look mellow.
I have seen the future I could have had and it just scared the shit out of me.
I never, ever thought I would say this, but…I am - with great humility - profoundly grateful for the eight years I spent slinging booze, cussing out drunks, throwing grown men out of bars, and sighing helplessly while at the mercy of women in the throes of alcoholic switch-bitch psychosis.
But goddamn! Tonight has shown me that my time spent as a bartender were not only years not wasted, but they saved me from possibly becoming one of the people I just met at a workshop on self-publishing.
Cool mask. Never wore one while at work.
I’ve been holed up in an accidental cabin behind the Brown Bear Saloon in Indian, Alaska. This place is a spit away from Anchorage, with its own itty-bitty town vibe. The owner of the place said he learned everything about what not to do in constructing a cabin while he was building the one I’m staying in.
I didn’t care. I had to have it for the loft and the windows, but what he said about the wiring made me a tad nervous. One of the disadvantages of being on the road, sleeping in the Brown Beast, in hostels, in my tent, etc. is that the creative juices really start to pump and there's no place to spill them.
Since what I'm doing does qualify as a business trip - hee-hee, haw-haw - I could write it off on my taxes to give myself that precious writer's space while fulfilling my storytelling/bookpeddling commitments in the greater Anchorage area.
Well, last night’s storytelling event at the Oasis was especially demoralizing. It’s been a while since I've hit a low, and I know it's all part of the process. But it still sucks.
So, tonight I decided to do something different. So I went to Border's to a workshop on self-publishing.
This photo is much more stunning than the group of people I sat with.
Incidentally, Border's here in Anchorage is pretty right-on. Jess French found a way around the corporate structure to give me a reading/signing. Since the critical mass was narrowed down to those who liked to read, I had no problem approaching the people my gut instinct told me would be open to what I had, and introducing myself and what I was doing. My gut was on the ball that night. Every person/couple I picked listened to a story. All of them, except the respite provider with her client, bought a book. One couple even bought two.
But back to my self-publishing workshop story…
Since the weather's been stunning and I was on a writing roll, I almost didn't go. But I managed to finish the rough draft of a new story and headed to the workshop. I was surprised to see several people at the table. They had already started even though it was not yet the start time of six o'clock.
I took my seat and sized up the characters around me.
The guy giving the talk had self-published his book as a Print-On-Demand project. He had eyes that seemed to swim inside his sockets.
Then there was the 50+ New York-to-Anchorage transplant. His hair was dyed black and slicked-back in a ponytail. He also had eyebrows Anton LaVey would have envied. When he introduced himself, I could just hear the tension in his voice. He was angry. Angry and frustrated that he had never been published.
Looking around at the others as the workshop dude did his talk, I had the sense that everybody there was on the New Yorker's page.
This was one serious, tight-assed group of people. It seemed as if this was a core writer's group that had workshops at Border's on a regular basis.
Oh, Chicks with Bics – this night made me miss you so. We actually have fun when we get together. We laugh every time. I don't think any of these people have had a good chuckle in years.
Chicks with Bics enjoyed strawberry chocolate pizza and wine, but these ladies give off a joyful vibe.
This was the most joyless group of intellectual idiots I've met in years. These are the kind of people who give intelligence a bad name.
Most of the people there were in their 50’s and 60’s. I had the impression that they had lived mostly inside their minds, and hadn’t lived nearly enough in their bodies, much less the world beyond.
Chances are, they probably wouldn't understand the value of living for the sake of enjoying yourself.
The pursed lips, the fidgets, the jerks, and the insistence on sticking with the program – I guess they wrote and shared at these workshop? Even the workshop dude felt the need to get on with it and wrap things up with his particular talk, so the others could get going with what they wanted.
On the upside, this only took a half an hour of my life because I left as soon as workshop dude was done. No way was I going to write with these folks.
Every single one of them - male and female, young and old, plain and pretty, gay and straight – reminded me of the maxim: “You need to get laid.” Every single one of them probably needed to get laid really, really badly.
Have sex. You’ll feel better.
The men needed to cut loose and be so obnoxious they might get 86ed from a bar. The women need to get so shnockered to end up sobbing hysterically in the ladies room of the local karaoke bar, struggling to get into their painfully tight shorts while their string bikini panties get tangled around their crotch. All the while testing the patience of the female bartender who had to babysit this embarrassment to womanhood who couldn’t remember her name, much less her address.
It is impossible to recreate an image of that hot mess, but i was grateful and surprised to find this on pexels and pixabay.
For the record, I was the bartender in that sordid little scene, not the drunk bitch.
But that's not the point. The point is that the people at that dismal self-publishing workshop really needed to actually have some life experiences that would inspire stories other people might actually want to read.
For instance, the workshop dude told his tale of self-publishing through a small POD publisher that charged him for their services, but got him distribution on Amazon and his one year contract. It cost him more than he made, and in one year he sold 300 copies.
“I didn't have to lift a finger to do it," he smirked.
Anyway, workshop dude with the swimming eyeballs moved on to greener pastures. He got some reviews from total strangers on the Barnes and Noble site; and a bigger small publisher (at least I believe that’s how it was) that had formerly rejected his work, has now picked up his book. He felt successful and good for him.
It all comes down to perspective.
I received my books in early July and it's now late September. I've probably given away about 80 books, and mailed 20 (my mother said she can sell them). But I've sold just under 200 books in less than three months. I have spent way more money this way. I've also lifted many fingers, some in obscene gestures.
But the experiences I've had doing my little grass-roots book tour have been the stuff of dreams during the best of times, and the content of nightmares at their worst. Most, if not all of these vivid experiences, became the subject of my emails to you.
I don't know if I'll sell or give away all 1100 copies, but I'm sure I'll outsell 300 books in 9 more months. I'll also have more fun doing it.
Maybe I’m an optimist. Maybe I'm out of my mind. If nothing else, this DIY booktour/roadtrip has given me plenty to write home about.
Don't forget to check out www.juneaumusic.com for all your social butterfly needs. And while I'm plugging Jason's site, I'll plug myself. "Ella Bandita and other stories," is sold at Rainy Day Books and Hearthside Books for 10 bucks. I'll be in town for a few days in October. Call me and I'll sign it for you.
By the way, would anybody like to review my book for the local paper?
PS My oh my! How self-publishing has changed since 2005. Much of this story is now outdated to the point of unrecognizable. But it’s fascinating to see how Amazon was a player in the Self-Publishing World even then. And Border’s has been out of business for years. I’m still sad about that.
PPS I have less than 150 copies of the original 1100 left. So, in all I did pretty well.
PPPS If you’d like to read the blog post about my times at the Brown Bear Saloon, click here.