Let Me Just Say One Thing...AAIIGGHH!!! - On the Road #17

Angry New Yorker dude made this guy look mellow.

Angry New Yorker dude made this guy look mellow.

Hey y'all,

 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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? 

Peace,

Montgomery

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.


I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry... On-the-Road Loneliness Nobody Talks About - On the Road #15

Loneliness4.jpg

Hey y’all,

I wanted to show off. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to entertain my audience of friends and family.

Strangely enough, that is what I regret the most about the email journal I kept of my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005-2006.

That yearlong odyssey was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I only wrote home about the fun stuff, and therefore, I wasn’t being fully honest.

I never wrote about the loneliness. Those long stretches of desolation only came out in hints here and there that only the very perceptive picked up on.

I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

Isolation has a relentless quality. 

From what I remember of that trip, there were many chunks of time when I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

After the excitement of the first weeks wore off, and as summer gave way to autumn, the other travelers had gone home. That’s when I realized that in the “us vs. them” mentality of most Alaskan small towns, I was one of “them.”

Even though at that time in my life, I had lived in Juneau/Douglas for enough years that I had earned my Alaskan spurs, I was not an integral part of the places I passed through in the Interior 

I sold books pretty consistently. Since I had several hundred books in the back of the Beast, I was always “ON.”

Alaskans are very big on community. Contributing to the village is a core value of this state in a way that is lacking in many others.

Travelers and vagabonds don’t invest themselves in the communities they visit. We’re there for our own experience. If we’re cool and awesome about that, we come and go without impact, and are always welcome to come back.

Travelers are there for their own experience.

Travelers are there for their own experience.

 The locals were very nice. People talked to me readily at the bar or the coffee house, and seemed curious about this journey I was on. But nobody invited me home for any dinner, nor to any potlucks that happen as the darkness comes and the summer goes. 

I could hardly blame them. Even in my chats with people, I couldn’t connect with them any more than they could connect with me. The locals were settled and on home ground, while I was on the road.

Constant motion does something to a person.

A few months later, when I would be in Colorado, a college friend told me that I seemed very ungrounded. She was right. It was impossible to stay grounded when all I had to do was pack up the Beast and move on, and that created a here-today-gone-tomorrow mentality.

I remember when the switch flipped in my mind. It was around the 3-month mark.

After that, the only people I could relate to were other travelers looking for the next place to live. Although they were filled with excitement and a sense of adventure (which for me, was like cool water while dying of thirst in the desert), they were as unsettled as I was.

I learned to make the most of every genuine connection, however brief. Every chat and every conversation gave me the nourishment I needed to stay somewhat tethered to humanity, and kept the relentless grayness at bay, and for that sliver of time, I felt relief.

I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.

I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.

And then something would shift. The next adventure would begin, and I was off on another limb of this odyssey. I would be so excited I would forget the loneliness. All I could think was:

“I can’t believe this is my life that I’m living. I am so blessed.” 

Peace,

Montgomery

 

PS: This post is from memory, written now about the DIY booktour/roadtrip I was on for a year during 2005-2006. To see the previous post, Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens, click here.

Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens - On the Road #14

DIYAuthorMarketing

Hey y'all,

Honest...I think I wouldn't be keeping a journal if I wasn't sending it to fifty people. It's weird, but even though I have little to say this week, I feel compelled to write anyway. 

For those of you who live in Alaska, ignore this if you like, because we experience cool shit like this all the time. This is more for those who live elsewhere. 

I love lazy hiking. Sitting on my duff whenever I feel like, zoning out until I feel like getting up and moving again. 

It's the peak of autumn right now, and the colors are breathtaking. Staying last weekend in Denali, I couldn't find my camera before going on a hike; but I looked at the cloudy, rainy skies and figured it wasn't that important, so I left without it.

Of course, lots of special Kodak moments happened.

"Etch it in your brain," my inner voice said. "That way you can take it with you when you die." 

That's very nice, but I still wish I had my camera with me. Even if I can recall the image vividly at will, my bragging rights have been severely stunted.     

There had been a group of fitness-junkie hikers that zoomed up to the overlook and back, while I puttered along and sat on my ass regularly. They said the view was "awesome," and nothing else.

But they didn't have a squirrel flirting with them from branches three feet above their heads, trying to seduce some snacks out of them. I did. And that's the kind of thing that happens when you do lazy hiking. 

I continued on up even though the fog was totally socked in and it looked as if I wouldn't be getting any "awesome" views. But I saw at least five flocks of migrating (after asking around, I decided they were cranes) birds flying above me as they made their way to their winter homes. 

Whatever they were, it was impossible to miss them, because their purring birdcalls could be heard for quite a few minutes before I actually saw them. 

I had also seen a flock of cranes (they definitely were) flying above me in Fairbanks. And I saw folded cranes in Gulliver's - who is carrying my book - and in the College Coffeehouse - where I did my last minute storytelling.

My time in Fairbanks was effortless.  

Cranes are definitely a "thing" in my life, whether they're made out of feathers or paper. What can you expect from a woman who folded a thousand cranes and put most of them up on her wall? 

But back to my hike. I made it up to the overlook and there was a ridge trail continuing on. Once at the top of the hill, I hiked the ridgeline. The undulating ease of the ridge is the hikers reward for getting there. 

The mountainsides were stunning with the red, gold, and fiery colors, and the deep green spruce speckled throughout. The fog kept coming in and going out, and eventually, the rainy skies cleared up. 

The views alone were enough to make me regret my camera. And that was before I saw the sheep. 

Going the extra distance was worth it. A quarter mile up the ridgeline, I saw a horned head poking around a rock staring at me, and a smaller head joined hers. 

Looking to the right, I saw a young Dall ram - his horns hadn't curved all the way around yet - poking along the stray plants munching away. He gave me a bored glance and kept chewing. 

The mama sheep and her young were just a little more nervous. They were also right on the trail, so I gave them time and space to move, which they did hesitantly, eyeing me all the while. 

I watched the sheep, the lamb, and the ram for a while, cursing myself the whole time for not searching more diligently for my camera. They practically posed for me, and there was nothing but my memory to remember them by.  

I passed them and sat on a rock that gives that "top of the mountain" feeling and just soaked in the space around me. After a few minutes of sitting on my duff, I head footsteps behind me and turned to see yet another Dall sheep coming up the trail and she stopped about six feet away from me.

We just stared at each other for a few minutes. Maybe if I'd stayed still, she would have strolled right past me, but as soon as I moved, she scurried to the side and around me to join her group.

Now that was cool. 

Between the flocks of cranes and the sheep, I took the whole day as a sign that things were looking up and a breakthrough had happened on my book tour. 

Maybe I'm a superstitious ninny.

But this week, I heard from the Anchorage Press that they are featuring my last storytelling at Organic Oasis, instead of just putting it in the calendar. And book sales have been steady. Maybe that's only a coincidence.

Either way, I still love lazy hiking. 

By the way, many thanks to Jason Caputo for featuring my journal entries on his website, www.juneaumusic.com. Don't forget to check out the site regularly for info on what is happening in Juneau musically and artistically.

Besides some of the links are cool, but beware the infinite David Hasselhoff crotch shot. Unless of course, you like narcissism...and David Hasselhoff. 

Peace,

Montgomery 

This excerpt from my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005/2006 was one of my favorites. I don’t know if the juneaumusic.com site is still active with or without David Hasselhoff’s crotch shot. But my email journal ended up being my first blog during the infancy phase of blogging. Andrea, who was on my email list, forwarded it on to Jason and that’s how it all began. If you’d like to see the previous letter in this journal, click here.

I LOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVE FAIRBANKS!!!!!! - On the Road #13

rangoli-593790_1280.jpg

Hey y'all,

I Love Fairbanks. I love it, love it, love it!!!!!

Let's color this email happy, baby!

(No color fonts in SquareSpace, unfortunately, hence the colors in the photo.)

Just when it seemed as if I was burrowed in the vat of discouragement, eating bitterness for breakfast, I came to Fairbanks. Never mind the drive up with the fall colors lighting up the tundra - that was beautiful! - but at Fairbanks, I arrived.

Granted my trip was not just sneers, you're-weird-looks, and other unpleasant run-ins - I have met so many wonderful, supportive, and amazing people at every stop...but in Fairbanks - at least from the college side of town to Ester, it wasn't just random individuals here and there, but packs of people in general. We all know that there's safety...and strength in numbers.

And coming here on the tail end of the Alaska Fair was just what my spirit needed to keep going.

I could feel from the first that Fairbanks would be different. At Gulliver's - awesome bookstore! - I ran into an acquaintance I met in Juneau - several of those up here - and was bellyaching about the trip and the difficulties of selling my own work, and myself, etc. when a friend of his sat down and after hearing what I was doing, offered to buy a book.

That night, I was at a dinner party in Ester when Jen, an artist I'd met in Girdwood, suggested that I go by this coffeehouse and if they didn't have anything scheduled, ask to do a storytelling there. Sure enough, one night was open, so I managed to set something up at the last minute. She also challenged me to "creatively visualize" a hundred people waiting in line to buy my book.

"If you do that every day for a month, I promise you, things will happen."

On the same day, I was at Gulliver's again, waiting for my turn for free computer usage when the manager came by and said they'd take five books to start out.

I also sold three more to acquaintances that I ran into and a stranger I'd just met.

The next night, I had a couple of groups, Jen's friends and people that I met at the hostel show up for the storytelling - one man bought five books, a Japanese lady bought two, and yet another bought one. Better yet, Ethan, a high school English teacher bought one and asked permission to photocopy it, so he could teach it.

"I love your book!" said Kliff, a drummer who is a friend of a friend. And apparently, he has raved about it to everybody he knows, because the Ethan the teacher was a friend of his.

At the Pub that night, I sold two more. I also met a radio dj who wants to interview me when I come back to town - because of course I will!!! - and one of the women who bought a book and was at Jen's dinner party - is a natural at marketing and is already cooking up ideas for a dinner party with a story segment in between courses. I had been wanting a venue to do "Ella Bandita" as a combo dinner theatre/tableside storytelling, and here Sarah was just handing it to me.

"Fairbanks is a place where a lot of people are trying to create something," said Jay, a musician who lived in Juneau briefly a few years ago. "So people really try to support each other here."

Jen said her art has just taken off since she moved here. Her friend Heather, who makes hats does quite well at the Farmer's Market.

I don't know what it is about this town, but after weeks of people's walls, boundaries, suspicion, and all other forms of attitude, the feeling of openness, generosity, and support was like the nectar of the gods. I sold twenty books in a few days without even trying and I have a posse in less than a week.

Hope everybody has patience with my bragging rights, but hell, this was long overdue.

Did I mention that I love Fairbanks?

Montgomery

This is from the DIY booktour/roadtrip I took in 2005-2006. This stop was one of my most joyful, and I still have cherished memories from that time. The DJ ended up being a total dud in the long run, fyi.

If you’d like to read the previous On the Road post that strongly contributed to the relief of this journal entry, click here.