Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh, My! How The Publishing Game Has Changed!

About 16 years ago I made the decision that to better be able to enjoy writing that I would pursue it as a hobby as opposed to a profession, despite the fact that it had always been My dream to become a published author.  The main reason I made that decision all those years ago was that writing was a hard business to break in to, as I shopped around for potential publishers for Whispers Of Darkness.

As I am sure many struggling writers know, back then writing and publishing was one of those games that was pretty much reserved for the rich, or at least those who had a significant money to blow.  If you didn't have the money to self-publish through a vanity press, then you had to take the real hard road.  Publisher did not want to hear anything from you unless you had an agent.  Agents were not willing to represent you unless you had already been published.  Hell it would have been easier for a 15 year old to get an unsecured credit card than a serious writer with a stack of manuscripts to ever get his first book published.

Since learning at the beginning of the year how easy it was to have an eBook submitted and published, and actually publishing Heather's Journey: The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE only a matter of weeks later it made Me realize that the game had changed, as eBook publishers like Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Smashwords, Lulu and dozens of others have effectively cut out the middle man.  What more could an independent and budding writer want?  No scraping and bowing to publishers over content.  No need to share fractional royalties with parasitic agents when many eBook publishers allow upward of 80% royalties dependent on the selling price.

Yes the game has indeed changed, and today that became even more apparent to Me.

This morning when I opened My mail box I found the most unexpected thing.  A letter from a publisher.  In it the publisher stated they had discovered Me through researching the Library Of Congress and noticing that I had a work now registered there.  Which seems to me is a clear indication that publishers are now trolling the archives of the Library Of Congress because the eBook market is putting a hurting on them.  I was also offered the chance to have My work reviewed by them, and I could send them a typewritten copy (oh, how quaint) to see if they would be interested in publishing it.

I had to laugh to Myself a little.  So this is the latest thing that I am going to be bombarded with?  Publishers coming to Me and wanting a chance to look at My work to see if they found it worthy of publishing?  I laughed a little louder, realizing that this publisher was in turn cutting out their own tried and true middle man, the literary agent.  I called the lady vyle and told her, saying "If all it took to get published back in the day was to send a copy to the Library Of Congress I would have done it.  However, back then publishers wouldn't have bothered."

Did I find the offer a little bit tempting?  Maybe just a little.  But I had never heard of Dorset Publishing before, plus I was sure that My content would not have been what they were looking for.  Were it Random House or Balentine or Berkley I would have probably been a little more tempted.  But then again, despite the fact that I'm not sitting on a huge mountain of money, or planning My retirement from My day job because the things I have published are selling so well, I kind of like being the Master (not sure if a pun is intended there or not) of My Destiny.  It's a lot of stress in some ways, because self-promotion in just that, Me promoting Myself with the help of a few friends such as Marabelle Blue, Nicola Matthews and Jason Darrick.  But on the other side of the coin I have the power to write My own jackets, to design My own covers, control all of My content and set My own pace.  After being overlooked and neglected by publishers I find that I'm not ready to give up My independence, or even consider it seriously if there was a mainstream publisher that wanted to put My work into print.  Were I vain, I would have went out and bought a printer and paper, and had a print copy ready to send out by the end of the week.  But I'm not.

I love the status I have as an independent writer.  I'm proud to be published, even though it is only in eBook format.  People look at you differently when you tell them you published an eBook.  You can tell that the average person on the street doesn't see that as being as glamorous as being published in print.  But, I don't really thing that attitude will last too much longer.  The world is changing by the month with the development of new technologies.  The publishing game has changed.  Print publishers and literary agents no longer hold the power.  The power is in the hands of ePubs and independent writers.

Where's the proof?

Well, I found the proof in My mailbox this morning.

Master Vyle

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So What Is Michael C. Laney Up To?

A blast from the past, something old to Me and new to you!  Huh?
Well for everyone that's been following Me I am sure knows that the past year was a pretty big year for Me.  In March 2010 I posted My first two stories online, Descent To Venus and Older Is Bedder.  Then between March and October I wrote several new short stories and a few dozen poems, became a Twitter tweeter, and finished a novel I had been working on for almost four years Heather's Journey: The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE.  At the very beginning of January 2011 I discovered I had been plagiarized, and set out to deal with that problem with help from fellow victims and with success.  In February an unabridged edition of The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE was published for download and eReaders, in a way bringing to close what was quite a year.

Afterward I went to work on several projects, starting a new story collection and working on getting a good start on the first novel of Shadows Of The Night.  I know, because people ask, they're wanting to know when they're going to see what they know I have in the works, but the problem is it's hard to answer.  Writing is one of those funny things.  Sometimes you will be so inspired to work on a particular project, and then poof, you get stuck, or suddenly you have another idea for a project you want to work on, but I'm thinking, always thinking, about whatever I put on hold or on the back burner.  I've actually begun to think that,especially with longer projects, that I need to work on them a little at a time while working on shorter works in between.

Of course life is something else that tends to get in the way.  I can tell you I really miss the days when it seemed like nothing was ever holding me back as I wrote.  When I was in high school I churned out story after story, assigned and on my own, between going to school full time, working practically full time (35 hours a week) and keeping a full "social" life.  Now I pretty much work, and that's it, or at least all I intend, but usually something is always coming up.  And that's just the basic stuff.

This year the lady vyle has faced several health concerns, and in the past 365 days or so she has been under and in surgery four times.  She is well now, but when you're dealing with the love of your life I think you know that you will put everything on the back burner to attend to their comfort and  to let them know that you're there.

Then there are all those other things that come along.  Boy scouts, "volunteering" at the middle school, yard work, etc.  You know, all those things that come along with being a parent and an adult.  One thing at a time doesn't seem like much, but add it all together and you wonder where all the time when, or how the hell did I write more when I was young with either just as much, if not less, time.

So, I've had life.  Ideas have come and went, some to simmer on the back burner and others stuffed into the freezer to grow cold.  Yet I'm at least always working on them in My head.  And then, there's always what I'm working on now.

Currently I am working on revising My 1994 short story, A Day In The Life Of  Abagail King into a novel.  The story was one I had chosen to quickly convert from a 3.5 inch mini-disk file and put onto My Kindle so I could look it over and have something to read when I was in Missouri for My oldest son's graduation, and as I read over it before I even left I had come to the decision that the story itself didn't need all that much work.  In fact I was surprised at the BDSM themes that had ended up in several of the scenes, and which still stood up pretty well, despite the fact that at the time I had only been living in the lifestyle for a little over a year.

So what's A Day In The Life Of Abagail King (the novel) going to be about?  Well the story is the tale of a southern prostitute, told in her own words.  I know I do My best to try to make each story I write very different from one another, but those familiar with My other works will find it quite a departure from My other works.  Abagail tells her story with her own person moxie and sometimes cutting her words down, dropping the G's off her words when she gets on a roll to reflect her own vocal accent.  She a product of her upbringing and at odds within herself over southern values and modern ideas.  With little apology or shame she relates the events of one of her work days from $50 quickies to a lesbian BDSM scene to a party where she entertains a large group of men with the help of only one other woman.

Is Abagail King going to be for everyone?  Probably not, but then again I would be hard pressed to name anything I've written that had Universal appeal.  However I am pleased with what I have, having just reached the halfway point, and I have as always striven to tell a true to life story with true to life characters.  I have a date in mind I would like to have it done and published, but whenever I actually name a date it seems I never get it done by then, and I hate to give a date and continually push it back, so for now I'm keeping the projected publication date under My hat.


Well, work continues on on My Fungi collection, slowly but  surely.  Plus I have been reading over The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE.  The story of the second novel in the Heather's Journey Trilogy is slowly starting to build itself in My head.  I have already worked on cover and interior art for the novel and I can assure you that work will probably begin on Heather's Journey: The Manual Of Discipline before the end of the summer.

Until then, I'll keep you posted.  But look out for A Day In The Life Of Abagail King, coming soon!

Master Vyle

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crude Michael Jackson Joke #MichaelJackson

I was reading the paper while I was on break this morning when I realized it was the second anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson.  Just to give some background I've always made these little South Parkesque Michael Jackson noises, like "He-Heeeeeee" and "Chumona", in the early mornings, but since his death it has become a daily thing.

Anyway, once I got back from break I went into the office and did a "He-Heeeeee" and announced to my coworker, Marco that it was the second anniversary of Jackson's death.

Marco said, "He ain't really dead.  He just did that so that he can have his privacy, get a normal job and be able to molest all the little boys he wants."

I replied, "Yeah, do you think he became a Catholic priest?"

Master Vyle

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cover Presentation, All About That Look!

The old adage goes that you can't judge a good book by its cover.  This may be true, but it sure didn't stop Me from buying several dogs just because they had great artwork on the cover over the years.  Hell, I still do it today.  Plus I will confess that I've kept them all around because I love the artwork.

For My own part it's My hope that it is My stories that readers find endearing.  However from the above experience the fact that the cover plays an important part of the sell isn't lost on Me.  For the independent writer the position is difficult.  Without having money to spend on the resources I've learned that you have to be creative.  The three initial covers I came up with were done quickly, and not with much practice with the photo program I used to generate them.  I revised the cover for Heather's Journey: The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE as soon as I had a chance to sit and think of exactly how I wanted to tweek it.

I pretty much had no idea what I was doing to begin with.  However as I was redoing the SOHMV cover I recalled the covers from comic books that I had collected over the years.  From around the late 60's or early 70's until the late 90's Marvel Comics, and later DC, started placing the image of one or more of the main characters in the top left corner beside the title of the comic.  This is what influenced Me to put My Skeleton Belaton icon in the same place on all My reworked covers so far with House Of Master Vyle Presents beside it.  Call it an homage to what helped to get Me here, because comic collecting helped further inspire My desire to create My own fictional universe.  (Give Me a few years to get more out there and you'll see the connections between stories.)

Of course I've been playing around for the past couple of weeks and I can tell you that not every cover idea follows this design, but it's the one that I've got out there so far.  I've had to be somewhat creative with limited resources.  So far I've doctored up some of My old pictures, took new pictures of places and objects, learned to crop, color and skew bits of My own personal pictures, My own horrible artwork, and in the future I plan on purchasing some pictures from royalty free stock photo sites where they're reasonably priced.

This week I updated the covers for Bunny Holes:

And St. Patrick's Day Scrumpin':

As you can see I did My best to make them both a little more visually arresting and professional looking.  I went back to a lot of those old Zebra Horror covers to get an idea about adding just a bit of extra wording to the covers.  Overall I'm pretty satisfied with My work and as I am sure you can see they're both a little more eye catching that the original covers.

In addition to giving them new covers I also put both stories on Lulu now as well.  I should have their links all up and posted in the stories section soon.

So tell Me what you think.  Do they look better than they did?  I actually received My first compliment on the Bunny Holes cover within five minutes of it being posted.  Yeah, I know.  I'm trying to sell a book based on the cover, however I've also done My best to put something entertaining and unique beyond that cover as well.

Master Vyle

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm Not Afraid To Use The N-Word: Character VS. Writer!

I occasionally love a long title, and My intended title for this article was I'm Not Afraid To Use The N-Word, Or The G-Word, Or The M-Word: The Character VS. The Writer, but of course it was way too long to put for a post title, and I can only imagine that the title alone would not fit into a tweet.  I know I've been silent for a little while, since My somewhat public disassociation with Lushstories.Com, but again I assure you that I have been working on one level or another.  Over the past several weeks I have had a chance to go back and look at the things that I had written years and years ago and compared them against the things that I have written over the course of the past year to post online.  I knew all along that I had been holding back for the sake of online publication, as so many sites adhere to a set of general laws that are acceptable internationally, but I had not realized really how much.  Touchy subjects became outright taboo on erotic sites, while the same subjects had always been addressed in printed works.  Many sites censor their submissions even if those touchy things are only mentioned and not presented as sexualized.  Rape, molestation, incest, murder, and teen sexuality are several subjects presented to us almost daily in some cases in print media, television and the movies, but end up being taboo if they are given a single line mention on some erotic sites, and sometimes they are the stuff that will get you banned from some sites.  It was the fact that erotic sites take a narrow view of broader subjects and stories that in part made Me decide to abandon Lush and site submission in general in favor of publishing for eReaders.  Although I can write quickies and fluff with the best of them I much prefer to write stories of substance and grit.

Then there comes the treading into the realm of Political Correctness.  For My part I feel that Political Correctness only belongs in a few places such as (and for the most part) in Politics and the workplace.  In literature Political Correctness has no place.  The reason is quite simple, human beings (probably a good 99.9999999999995% of the population), are not Politically Correct.

I guess it goes without saying that if you're one of these 24/7 PC people who just couldn't wait to get a copy of the N-Word Free Editions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn then the works of Michael C. Laney will not be for you.  I'm from the South, a native Floridian, a large percent of My lineage Cherokee, raised by Southern white people, so I'm about as Southern US as you can get, location-wise and in upbringing.  So yes, going through middle school I became aware of the argument and controversy over some of Mark Twain's works, which at the time were required reading and a bone of contention with people who felt the works racist over the use of the N-Word.  Now in the 21st Century I have to say it was just brilliant that someone had the insight to go through and replace the word "nigger" with the word "slave".  I know that this really smoothed things over with the African-American Community and that African-Americans are buying Tom Sawyer like it's going out of style, and are just praying that their children will find that novel as part of their required reading in middle and junior high school.

Like Hell!

Only a white person could have though replacing nigger with slave would make the story any more inviting to people of color.  Right?  I mean how many of you are going to work tomorrow and saying, "Hey slaves, what up?", to your black co-workers.  I'm sure the police are going to the basketball courts in Auburndale late at night and saying, "Alright, all you slaves got to go home now."  I'm also sure that when someone has a black person blocking the door to the Metro-North Rail when they reach their destination are going to say, "Hey, slave, get out of my way!"

No the above scenarios aren't happening because for one people do not talk that way.  In fact in most cases they're not going to assign a racial marker at all to any group, and if they are it's going to be derogatory one way or another.

As I was growing up I used to hear people say, you don't have to be black to be a nigger, a bad person is a nigger no matter what color they are.  And I can't help but believe that whoever came up with that term was whiter the a brand new KKK hood and robe.  I've never in my life heard a white person call theirself a nigger.  The closest I've ever heard was "nigga" and it was always some wanna-be thug that listened to a lot of Vanilla Ice or Eminem.  Nope, Caucasians in general have no concept of what it is to have someone put you down due to their skin being anything other pure white.

Recently My oldest son, Alex, graduated from high school.  The lady vyle had never been to where he lives in Missouri and she was appalled that the high school's mascot was the Savannah Savage, and that the local NFL team was the Kansas City Chiefs.  As we headed back to the airport on the day we left she started talking about how bad it made her feel to see that they used such derogatory names for the sports teams in the area.  I told her that there were several Native Americans that could care less, and from what I had seen over the years a majority of the people who were out to have sports team names changed to mascots more PC were usually white.  It had never bothered Me that the teams were the Savages and the Chiefs.  I bought a Savage Pride t-shirt when I lived there.  And to this day many of the people I've worked with have given Me the nickname of Chief, mostly due to the fact I am so demanding as a majority of the people I've ever worked with have assumed I am Hispanic and have no idea I'm Native American without being told.

Of course I know there may be those of you who think that, well from what you've written here it doesn't seem like you understand the subject because it sounds like you've never had a problem with racism in your life.  Well let Me assure you it's something that I've dealt with for most of My life.  As the only Native American in my family, and in nearly every community I've lived in it's something I've dealt with almost every day.  Once you reach about the 5th grade everyone finally begins to realize that anyone who is not like them is different, and when you're the sole representative of your race it begins to be a fairly lonely existence when no one really wants to associate with you and you have no idea why.  Combine that with repressing the fact you're bisexual, although it seems that everyone around you senses you're even further different, and it truly does make you into a country unto yourself.

As recently as five years ago I was in a direct confrontation that was racially motivated.  I had walked home from work and found Myself accosted by a neighborhood "good old boy" as I stopped at the community mail box to get the mail.  Apparently he and his equally good old boy and equally drunken friend had passed Me on the road and yelled at Me, asking if I needed a ride.  I can't tell you if that happened or not, as I was usually in My own world whenever I walked home, either thinking about writing or thinking about bills, so maybe they did offer Me a ride, and if so I never heard them.  Well, good old "Bobby Joe" wanted to know if  "...I thought I was too good for decent white folks".  I responded that I was sorry, that if they had offered Me a ride I hadn't heard them because I was off in My own thoughts, but what I really wanted to say was "No, but you aren't decent white folks."

So, I've had My share of being made to feel less of a person because I was different.  It's not a white only club either, because I've had some experience with people of other races as well.  One of My cousins was married to a Mexican and it just so happened that I rode the same bus with one of his cousins.  He quickly let Me now that I wasn't one of "them" (a Mexican or a member of his family) so never talk to him.  Another incident I will never forget is walking in on a conversation between a black couple, the boyfriend at the moment I was headed in their direction proclaiming his hate for white people.  I said hello in passing and had the guy going off saying, "Can't you hear?  I said I don't like white people!"  Of course he got one of what has become one of My standard responses over the years.  I held out My arm and said, "Hey, man, I ain't white!"

PC in the real world?  If you work with a diverse group of 20 to 30 somethings PC does not exist until someone gets mad enough at someone else to want them gone or in trouble.  Chief, Apache, Mexican, Puerto Rican, homie, chupacabara, brotha, nigga, whitey, pale face, sheep fucker, Joe Dirt, and Chico are but a few of the endearing terms that have flown back and forth between My co-workers and Myself over the years at various jobs, with the exception of the St. Joe Frontier Casino because it was a well known fact that the graveyard shift manager and the vaunted Missouri Gaming Commission have no sense of humor.

Oooops!  Did I say graveyard shift?  For those yet  unaware that it no longer an acceptable term and is being replaced with the more PC third shift.  I suppose graveyard is not acceptable to zombies. vampires, the dead or otherwise "living challenged" individuals.

I Love This Picture Because It Is So True
So what about the character vs. the writer?  Some say that every character is an extension of the writer, and to an extent that is true, although not always is the character a personal extension of the writer, but sometimes is a creation based on people they have experienced in their lives.  Yes, just as I've been discriminated against and had derogatory things said about Me I've been on the other side of the fence as well, especially when I was younger.  I feel it's a natural part of the human condition.  At some point in our lives we've all either hated or discriminated against others because they were different.  Even in communities where everyone is the same color human beings find some basis to hate someone else because of where their ancestors came from or what their religion is.  I like to think of it as the Star Trek Principle.  In Star Trek the human race had abandoned prejudice and hate amongst themselves because of a series of wars.  However once they head into space they found new people to hate.  Star Trek has always been kind of a filter for looking at contemporary issues, so it is only natural that racism was often an issue during the original series, although sometimes disguised.
The character, in fact each character, has to have a life of their own to be real.  They have their own way of presenting themselves and their own thoughts.  If every character was a mirror image of their creator, or if they were all PC it would make a story dull and boring.  Even if each character has similar feelings about everyone else in a story it becomes pretty static quickly and has no life to it.  Let's face it if every character has empathy for every other character in it the story will not ring true.

My mother was probably My first critic, although not a welcome or invited one.  She has a habit of snooping where uninvited, and she's a very single minded and Southern.  Whenever she went into My room in the last few years I lived at home and helped herself to a preview of whatever I was writing she would eventually come to Me and tell Me that I wrote really well, but she did not appreciate the language I used (fuck, queer, asshole, bitch, cunt, etc.).  I told her that that was they way people talked in the real world.  That everything was not sanitized and nice.  It was fiction and fiction was a reflection of life.

That was My beginning.  That was when I decided I would never hold back and always write so that it was real to Me, because if it pissed My mother off then I knew I was on the right track.  And I held true to that, until I began posting stories online.  Then I had to hold back, for what seemed to Me stupid reasons due to the fact that a majority of everything I had read since middle school would have never made it online, and I'm talking authors who were #1 Best Sellers, had written classics or had huge fan followings.

I'm not afraid to use the N-Word in fiction because it is a word that people use, sometimes in everyday life and sometimes in private, or even in thought.  In Heather's Journey: The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE the term "nigger lover" comes up more than a couple of times as Heather discusses her interracial fantasies with Kitty and even in her own fantasies.  In My latest project, an expansion of the short story A Day In The Life Of Abagail King into a novel the titular Mrs. King uses the words nigger and nigger lover as well as several other racial and racist terms because it is the language she grew up with, although for the most part she is an accepting Southern woman who realizes she is living in the late 20th Century and that things are always changing.  In dozens of other stories characters use the N-Word for various reasons, sometimes deliberately to hurt others and sometimes thoughtlessly.

I'm not afraid to use any of those other words that make the PC people cringe, like the G-Word.  Although it is the latest on the list I have no problem using gay, or associated terms like faggot, queer, gayford, fag, butt pirate of the Caribbean.  Yes, I know I'm in the in crowd there (at least somewhat), and I am sure like Russel T. Davies before Me I will catch some flack, but again it's fiction, the world isn't pretty and seeing the reflection is usually what helps bring about change.

The M-Word from the intended title?  That would be molestation, a subject hard to deal with out in the open period.  No I don't write pedophile or molestation scenes, but it is important to reveal the aftermath of such events in a character's life.  The R-word rape, another that will get you kicked off some erotic sites as an unmentionable, is another I have no fear of using.  Again it is another unpleasant fact of life, and I have and will continue to write stories that contain somewhat graphic rape scenes that are not written as points of titillation but to reveal the horror of the act and the impact it has on the victim for the rest of their life.  Having survived sexual violence I often write stories that revolve around characters who have lived in the aftermath of molestation and rape, and for Me for the longest time writing was the only avenue I had for working through the anguish of feeling I had no one to talk to about it.

I can go on with a list of words I have no fear of using in a story all day long, but I think you get the point.  I know there are people that will say, well if you use those words at all that makes you a  racist.  If you happen to be that small minded please don't bother to ever read another word I've written.  When I write a character full of venom and hate and you find that you don't like them chances are My intention was to write a character you would not like.  Sometimes I write characters who causally throw out racist remarks who think nothing of it because it was the way they were raised or they're following what everyone they hangs with is doing, and usually those are characters who will grow into better people over the course of a story or a series.

With people I've worked with over the years I've joked around, usually doing a little hazing when someone is  the new guy, but I've also never had a problem letting people who've been around longer than I have or managers have it as well.  I always say, "Michael Laney is equal opportunity."  Which means just because I'm helping you make fun of that other guy right now doesn't mean I won't be busting on you 30 minutes from now.

In fiction I'm equal opportunity as well.  People hate, so I write characters who hate.  People are kind, so I write characters who are kind.  People do selfless things, so I write characters who do selfless things.  People so cruel things, so I write characters who do cruel things.  Outside your door and outside your workplace the world is made up of many different kinds of people, some good and some bad.  And inside the pages of what a writer has created you will find many different characters, some good and some bad.  It takes many different people and ideas to make up the real world, and by that same token it takes just as many to make up a fictional world as well.

That's why I'm not afraid to use the N-Word, or any other word for that matter, in fiction.

Master Vyle