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June 29, 2005

Uncle Davy's Corner

In this latest installment of Uncle Davy's Corner, your favorite uncle will dispense some sage advice to his readers on a variety of topics taken right out of today's headlines:

Shark Attacks on the Florida Beaches!

Seems a shark or sharks are actively feeding on the beachgoers of sunny Florida. The populace is terrified, they say. Fox News even posted an article on how to avoid a shark attack.

Uncle Davy says: Scared of sharks? Stay out of the f***ing water.

Study: Men Overestimate Normal Penis Size

Uncle Davy says: Duh. The authors of this study never heard the old adage, "Is that real inches or man inches?"

Teacher Allegedly Assigned Arson

Seems a female teacher in Texas has been arrested for passing two dumbass students in her chemistry class in exchange for them burning her car in an insurance scam. Parents are outraged.

Uncle Davy says: Quit bitching; at least she wasn't boffing them.

Birds prefer their droppings to be on white cars, according to a scientific study.

After counting bird shit on over 2,000 cars, the scientific geniuses came up with this hypothesis.

Uncle Davy says: This must be a federal grant; maybe from the same department that sponsored the penis-awareness study.

Hitler: Father of sex doll?

An Italian newspaper says Nazi dictator ordered production of inflatable sex dolls for S.S. soldiers; doll would be blonde, blue-eyed with large lips and breasts. Among Der Fuhrer's specs was that the "doll’s organ should feel absolutely realistic.” Alas, the secret project was deflated after the allies bombed the Huns' rubber factory in Dresden.

Uncle Davy says: Sounds like the plot of a campy Broadway musical.

By the way, these are real headlines.

*****

June 26, 2005

Hiccup

Got a letter yesterday from AuthorHouse telling me that costs are going up in maintaining their books in the Ingram distribution loop. They've absorbed that cost, but are now going to charge the authors to keep them with Ingram. The Ingram listing is what makes them available to retailers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. Since most of my sales are from Amazon, not having my books available there will pretty much kill most of my sales.

I've never understood why most people who buy online choose to do so through a retailer rather than buy directly from AuthorHouse.com at a greatly reduced - wholesale - price. In the beginning, when AuthorHouse was 1stBooks and had a really crappy web site which didn't process orders very well - if at all - I understood why people moved over to Amazon or B&N. Plus, people get coupons and discounts and such from those retailers, so the cost savings isn't that much.

So, back to my predicament. Certainly, I can pay to keep the Ingram lifeline alive. It will cost me about $20 a year per book. Now, keep in mind that I have four books, but different versions of each book...each one with a separate fee. For instance, there's Undercover White Trash. A softback copy and a hardback, and an ebook. Ditto on the others. So, keeping the things alive can cost me several hundred bucks a year. Sure, there's a discount for signing up for two or three years at a time.

Having the books available in the retailers gives an air of legitimacy to them. This keeps the novels "viable" in the eyes of readers out there who want to make sure they're getting quality for their buck. I can understand that. It also positions the book in a legitimate forum for prospective buyers of a larger kind: book publishers and movie people.

If I choose not to go the Ingram route, my books will always be available directly through AuthorHouse. But if I choose to keep them there, the fees will offset much of my profit.

This whole thing reminded me I still want to re-work Elephants. New covers, new size (6x9) and new LOW price. A project for this year. I think a lot of people would buy it but are balking at the price. And now, AuthorHouse in their letter noted they have suspended the ebook version - for what reason, I don't know - but I'll check into that tomorrow. The ebook was the only option for people who didn't want to plunk down twenty bucks for a paperback.

Alas, another pitfall of self-publishing. I guess I could keep one version - like the softbacks - available through Ingram and let the other ones ride on AuthorHouse.com if people want them. This could keep my yearly costs down. We'll see; I'm open for input from my legion of fan.

*****

June 20, 2005

Lost Boys

I've written on this blog several times about the problems I see in young men. Mainly matters of immaturity and lack of class, ambition, and leadership. I came across this article in the news today which finally told me I'm not the only one noticing this phenomenon. The article talks about the growing disproportion of young men enrolling in college. Numbers of men enrolling are steadily falling. The article approaches the problem from many angles, but comments from one researcher in particular caught my eye:

Fortunately, researchers like Judith Kleinfeld of the University of Alaska see that boys are in distress. Kleinfeld — author of "The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls" — states, "In my own college classes, I see a sea change in the behavior of young men. In the 1980s, the young men talked in my classes about the same as young women. I know because each semester I measured male and female talk. Now so many young men are disengaged that the more articulate, ambitious women dominate the classroom...and my office hours." Kleinfeld tried to trace the problem backward by interviewing high school students on plans for their future. She states, "The young women almost always have a clear, realistic plan—-go to college, have a career, often directed toward an idealistic goals about improving the environment." This clarity of vision and was generally absent in young men.

Absolutely right. This absent "clarity of vision" is what I've seen. Young men with no sense of self, no sense of their place in the world...just no sense, period. At the same time, young women have stepped in and assumed their roles. I first noticed this problem at my work place; male applicants have steadily declined. I thought it was just a case of men going elsewhere to work, chasing the big money and such, but I've seen numbers on other occupations and they say the same thing; men are increasingly absent from the work place. Instead of working, they live at home with mom or someone else who will put up with their laziness.

What I see is a vast lost generation - "Lost Boys" as the article calls them - of men who have checked out of modern life. Perpetual 14-year-olds, never growing into their father's shoes. Video games, porn, spectator sports and potty humor fill the minds that should be planning their futures. And maybe ours.

So this should serve as another wakeup call to all of us, both male and female: The Time of Woman is at hand. I've been saying this for a long time. Now, other people are saying it, too. Maybe I'm from the last generation where men will have played a vital role. After 10,000 years of domination, maybe it's time we stepped aside. Or maybe its time we just got our act together.

*****

June 12, 2005

Tattoo me

I've spent a lot of time in tattoo parlors. As a matter of fact, I've probably spent more time in tattoo joints than any guy who doesn't have a tattoo and/or a body piercing. Why? Well, that's a long story that I won't get into here. But suffice it say, like any good writer, I took the opportunity to observe and learn and gather information that I may be able to use later. Like, in a book. Or a blog.

Tattoo parlors are unusual places. They're typically not a 9-to-5 office operation. The clientele are usually not wearing ties, and the employees are surprisingly nice and friendly, even though they look like parolees from Death Row. Now, because of my strange relationship with the tattoo, I have frequently been in such places while wearing a tie or some other inappropriate garb, but I still managed to both gather information and stay alive. So here's a few things I've learned about tattoos and body piercing:

Tattoos are supposed to hurt. That's part of the ritual. If you go to the doctor and have your armed numbed-up before you get that "Mom" on your bicep, you are a sissy.

People are supposed to WATCH you getting your tattoo. Strangers, even. You must allow others to witness your grimaces and "Oh, SHIT that hurts!" If you don't, you're a sissy.

Microscopically small tattoos, especially fraternity/sorority symbols on your ankle, are the lowest form of tattoo art. All tattoo artists will do them just for the money, but they spit on the floor when you leave.

If you get your penis pierced, and you ride a Harley, be sure and pierce it from side to side, not top to bottom. The knob on the end of the spike tends to rub on the seat and will make that ride to Sturgis very, very long.

On the same topic, nipple piercing will make you a sexually-charged horny dynamo. Kind of like a human Tesla machine. One touch, and you'll light up like a Christmas tree.

A guy who dances at gay strip joints can make a hell of a lot of money. I'm talking like mid-six-figures kind of money, per year. Cash. And, the guy doesn't have to be gay to do it. A second thing I deduced from this revelation is that there isn't enough whiskey in Ireland to get me drunk enough to dance in a G-string in front of a club full of salivating, drunken gay men.

Getting your lover's name tattooed on the inside of one's thigh is okay, but both lovers getting their names tattooed on the inside of their thighs is just plain...romantic. A word of caution: Before agreeing to this, make sure your lover's name doesn't consist of more than one syllable. "Alexandria" and "Frederico" are definitely bad choices. Either get another lover or just use their initials. In addition to saving yourself a lot of pain, it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

If you choose a tattoo from the pre-drawn patterns on the wall in the lobby, you're a dork. Cool people make ORIGINAL designs. Originality is risky; that portrait of your grandmother on your ass could turn out to look like Yoda. But you have to take the chance.

Okay, so there's my combined knowledge of tattoos and the tattoo lifestyle. I doubt if I get to experience any more field studies in this area, so this will have to do for now.

*****

June 5, 2005

M*A*S*H TRASH?

Received my first email from one of our folks in uniform. One Francis Cloran, M.D., of the U.S. Army stationed somewhere in somewheresville, gearing up for the fracas:

First of all, I wanted to thank you for posting on my blog (Numbness). I considered it an honor to have the author of a novel I was reading post on my site. I greatly enjoyed Undercover White Trash. The story provided me with a bit of repose while I was finishing some military medical training down at Camp Bullis, TX. Believe me, after 12 hours of cradling an M-16, triaging casualties and studying convoy operations, escaping into the life of Eddie Presle...Prescott was quite a pleasure.

I thought maybe the good doctor had seen one of the dozens of copies of Undercover White Trash myself and others sent overseas to our troops as part of the AuthorHouse book drive last year. But alas, he found it the old-fashioned way by Googling for "white trash." Seems the doctor is also an indy writer like myself, looking for inspiration. Be sure and check out his blog; he doesn't post that often because he's awful busy. Drop him a line and tell him "thanks" for working his arse off for us.

By the way, I found his blog, which noted he was reading UWT by Googling for my name or UWT or something. To you other indies out there, be sure and Google your own stuff every once in awhile; you'll be surprised what you may find.

*****

May 28, 2005

Things I'm Sick Of

If I see one more thing about any of the following, I'm going to stuff a rabid cat in my Jockeys:

Star Wars (what the f*** is a Sith, anyway? And who cares?)

American Idol (10 minutes of singing, 40 of commercials, 10 more on dumb fillers, and 24 hours of hype; how much talent do you have to lack before you're famous?)

Michael Jackson (send him to the joint or back home already; either way, boys are waiting on him)

Viagra (didn't our mothers warn us that playing with that thing would make us blind?)

Paris Hilton (I guess I'll s*** someone's d*** on video so I can become famous, too)

Jane Fonda (wake me when someone pops a cap in her ass)

The tsunami (okay, it rang the Earth like a bell already)

Okay, so I'm a bit impatient today. Sign me up on Dr. Phil.

*****

May 21, 2005

Just flew in from Tulsa, and boy are my arms tired.

Just got back from picking up my dear mudder in Oklahoma. She'll be spending a little time with me down here. Very nice.

Other news: Bad news from Gollywood. Fifteen film companies up, fifteen down. My people (hey, I've got PEOPLE, baby) are now on to the second wave. But hope springs eternal, as it must.

Got the first three pages of my graphic novel spec script done. I'm laying out the pages for my artist, who will take my chicken scratchings and stick figures and turn them into real art work that we will submit, with synopses, character studies, pitches, etc. to various publishers. I'll do five in all, sequential elements in about the last third of the screenplay. I doesn't matter where the pages are cut from; publishers want to see if you can manage continuity as well as storytelling.

I'm rather enjoying the art work aspect of it. I was an artist of sorts in my own right as a yoot. In fact, I was a fine arts major in my first two years of college. But figures and comic-style drawing was never my thing. I was a pretty good technician, though, so drawing lines and boxes and frames is more my thing. I wish I still had my drafting table and equipment so I can do it right, but I must make do with some graph paper, a ruler, pencil and felt-tip pen.

Laying out the frames is fun; it's an exercise in visual design. You must think like a movie director, conveying ideas in images instead of words. You must think in 360 degrees: what is in front of the character, beside them, and behind them...then rotate your point of view accurately. You must also accurately portray emotions and such with few words. You can't fit a five-minute monologue in a dialog "balloon," can you? It's a really good exercise for screenwriters. If you have a story, try to lay it out in graphic story-board form in less than 120 pages. If the story won't translate into this form, then it certainly can't be translated into a movie. Think about it. And vice versa; if you create your story in graphic form first, then a screenplay would be much easier to write from it.

Just a thought.

*****

May 10, 2005

Agents and other mollusks

As noted earlier, I've been trying to get an agent. As in the past, I'm using the Writer's Digest 2005 Guide To Literary Agents book to find prospects. The Guide lists agents by specialty - like screenplays, books to film, magazine writing - and also denotes if they are open to contact from the public. If they are open to contact, the agents list their requirements for submission. Some want a query letter first, some want outlines and a synopsis, etc. The Guide uses symbols to denote just how open the agency is to contacts from the public: Actively Seeking New Writers, Seeking Both New and Established Writers, Prefers to Work With Established Writers, and Agency Not Seeking New Clients.

First, remember that the Guide has contacted all these agencies already. I wouldn't be surprised if the agencies even paid a fee to be included in the book. Be that as it may, the agency had the opportunity to turn down being in the book if they chose to do so; the book does not list every agency in the country by any means, whether it wants to be listed or not. So keeping this in mind, why would an agency list itself in this book and then say that they are Not Actively Seeking New Clients? Whatever. So, when I selected which agencies I'd contact, I only went for the Actively Seeking and the Seeking Both agencies. All the ones I chose wanted only a query letter to start. Each wanted a self-addressed stamped envelope, too for the return letter (i.e. rejection). All list the turnaround time for their response.

Okay, so I've sent out about fifteen letters with my SASE. It has been well past the turnaround time for all of them. How many have responded?

One.

Now keep in mind that I've included the SASE, and for Christ's sake, it has one of those pull-tab closures on it; all they have to do is write "Screw You" or whatever on my letter or stickie note, stick it in MY envelope, peel and close, then put it in their "OUT" box.

Not very ****ing hard. At least, I didn't think it would be. But evidently, such a task is a big ****ing CHORE for them to do.

I expect this kind of stuff from people in the industry, don't get me wrong. I guess what bugs me the most is that all these people are listed in the Guide KNOWING THEY WILL BE CONTACTED BY AUTHORS SEEKING THEM OUT. Why put all your info in there, and maybe even pay for it, when you have no intention of responding to any unsolicited queries? And above that, why does Writer's Digest keep putting various editions of agent guides and publisher's guides every year if they know none of the bastards are responding? And Writer's Digest HAS TO KNOW what their listed agents are doing, or in this case, not doing.

So a very long story to let you all know to forget any of these Writer's Digest Guide To... books. Save your $25 and find your agents another way. Maybe the online registries are more timely and accurate. That's my next approach; I'll let you know how it goes.

*****

Not a mollusk: I want to thank Rick Blair over at the Artisan Center Theater in Hurst, Texas for taking a set of complimentary "head shots" of me. He did this out of the kindness of his heart, and because he's one of my most tireless supporters.

Rick and his wife DeeAnn run said theater in the classic way of small community theaters: It is a labor of love. The struggles of keeping the place open are extraordinary, but they manage to do it. They've just moved into their new digs, an old four-plex movie theater that they're converting into their theater-in-the-round, which is their trademark. It will be a long haul and will cost a lot of money. But they have a lot of help in terms of volunteers (40+) who are true believers in community theater. They have a play or musical going every month of the year just about, one right after the other, meaning that while one is showing, the other is in rehearsals. And if that isn't enough, they also run a children's acting school and an incredible performance class for special needs kids as a community service.

Wow. Now that, my friends, is a love of ART. So if you're ever in the DFW area, go online to their site and see what's playing, then order up some tickets. The good time you'll have is well worth the low price you'll pay.

*****

May 8, 2005

Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: etc.

I usually hate getting these multiple Fwd:'s. Especially the ones that say "If you love God, send this to 7 people you love" and that kind of stuff. If people want to send me something I might like, I like it when they strip all the Fwd info from them and send it to me as-is. Most of the people I know do this. I received one of these the other day and kind of liked it. The text of it:

FOR THOSE OF US BORN IN the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's:

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, twinkies, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING ! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. There was only one phone in the house and you asked permission to use it. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?

Thanks to my Mom for sending me this. And thanks to my Mom on this Mother's Day for still thinking of me, still supporting me, and still being MY Mom.

*****

 

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