Modest Genius or Psychic: Hats Off to Hoff

Back in the heady days of 2010 and 2011 when I was busy creating “Vampire Syndrome”, one of the fellow members of my critique group was a young woman by the name of Michelle Hoff. She was in the process of creating her magnum comedy opus, “Banged By The Flash“.

Both of us finished our respective works in 2012, and released them to the world.

I went through a strange and intensive multi-year, multi-stage labyrinth of moving up to a small press, and even being signed to a television development deal, before finally ending back up at ground zero and concluding my “writing” life.

Michelle, by contrast, released her e-book on Amazon, and quit writing immediately afterward.

I didn’t understand her reasons for doing so at the time, but I do now. Not just that, I really admire her for doing this, as well.

I, like 99.9999999999999% of all authors out there, was trying to make a cultural impact. To change the world, or at least some of my readers, for the better.

Michelle, by contrast, wanted nothing more than to write her novel and be done with it. Most likely a “bucket list” proposition, which I would infer from her Amazon author page photo of her trip to Costa Rica a year later. I myself fulfilled a bucket list dream by driving my 1960 Plymouth station wagon on a 3,000+ mile road trip from Denver to northern Washington state (and back) in 2012. Which cost more than first-class airfare, but a first-class road trip life experience is far more precious and much less common than the “easy” way of flying on a commercial aircraft. Now, piloting a light aircraft yourself down to Costa Rica, that would be more analogous to my road trip.

There are two ways I can interpret Michelle’s writing a sole novel just to complete it. Either she is the humblest and wisest author on the face of the Earth, with no other goal but to create one book, “do it right” with the input of a professional critique group, and be done with it, with no further expectations of “how it will do” or “what more can I create?”

She can say, “I wrote a professional-quality novel, vetted by a professional critique group, and you can still buy it on Amazon.”
Which is far more than 99.9999999999999% of all the people saying they have a “great idea for a novel” will ever do.

That, or she was a psychic who could see how the publishing industry and authors’ statures would decline after 2012, and wrote her sole opus while the getting was still relatively good. 😈

Either way, now that I’m finally back to ground zero and normal life, I salute the woman who didn’t take seven years to get back to this, as I did.

Advertisements

538 + 296 = Zero

Out of curiosity, I’ll just check my Smashwords dashboard…

Hmm, Book One, 538 copies sold.
538 downloads

Book Two, 296 copies sold.
296 downloads

Reviews:
Book One, one review from a supporting author when it was first released.
Book Two, no reviews.

There’s nothing to see here. I can go about my business. Move along, move along…
😈

Vampire Syndrome 2009-2019: The Long, Strange, Epic Circle-Trip

On June 13, 2009, I conceived the world of “Vampire Syndrome”, the adventures of a young man with Down Syndrome suddenly thrust into the hidden underworld of Earth’s Vampires.

It’s now June 13, 2019, the tenth anniversary of the idea’s conception. If I hadn’t conceived of this saga, I’d be…

… exactly where I am right now, but with less Facebook friends. 😈

In 2009, I thought all this could be my ticket out of the mundane “worker bee” world. Ten years later, though, I’ve discovered some intriguing similarities between my “work path” and my “creative path”, where lessons I learned in one also applied equally to the other.

First, “work”. I’ve never been one to let a “standard job” (a position that can be performed by another person) define who I am. I didn’t hesitate to leave a job I’d held for 26½ years, even though I incurred some notable losses to do so.

The reason? I saw firsthand what happens when someone’s regular job did define who they were. I watched a man who could have retired with a full pension in 2007, and who had a paid-for house and six figures in the bank; who instead chose to literally work himself into the grave, just because he enjoyed his duties on a clinically psychopathic level. Even after he became so debilitated that his doctors prohibited him from working, he drove several miles past several other stores, just to shop in ours.

In our seniority-based system, his refusal to retire also kept those of us under him “down a notch” for six years, all just so he could soldier on in vain until the doctors said he couldn’t.

Thanks to him, I swore I’d never be a “deadwood” in any endeavor, just taking up space when I could move on and let others rise up the ladder, as they should.

Turns out that 2007 would have been the perfect year for my co-worker to retire, for other reasons. Our employer and our store went into a tailspin in 2008/2009. Not notable in itself, as this happened “almost everywhere” at the time. The real problem was, we never recovered from the Great Recession. By the time I left my employer in Jan. 2016, we had less employee hours and sales that we did in January 2009! The saddest part about my co-worker’s fate is that his demise directly resulted from the increasing stress he had to endure from 2008 onward as our employer and store declined. I believe 100% that this man would still be alive and healthy today, if he had retired after 33 years of service in 2007 as he could and should have.

So, then, why did I stay as long as I did? To vest for my full pension credit, at 25 years of service. Becoming a “deadwood” is not for me, I will collect *my* pension the moment I can, and not a second later.

Once I had hit that 25-year mark, our employer had been bought out in a merger with another chain. Two once-big names, joining together to “increase their economies of scale.” Sound familiar? It should. Studebaker (America’s earliest mass-production vehicle manufacturer) and Packard (America’s premier volume luxury car brand before WWII) joined in this manner in 1954. Sears (America’s largest department store and catalog-order retailer for decades), joined forces with Kmart (America’s largest discount store chain, for several decades) in 2004.

Studebaker-Packard ceased auto manufacturing in 1966, twelve years after their merger.
Sears/Kmart; well, if you live in the United States, you already know how that’s turned out. 😈
CNBC Article “Sears was toast since KMart merger”

Thus, after the merger, I expected our new ownership to tout the new company’s “increased economies of scale”as being our salvation, and enabler of future growth. Also known as the inevitable “warning cue” that the new merged-out-of-necessity company will eventually die at some point in the future, because the resulting combined company doesn’t have the size scale that even one of its halves had at their peak (as with Sears/Kmart and Studebaker/Packard, among others).

Problem was, this time our “new” company wasn’t even pretending anything would improve (at least here in Denver), so I knew it was time to get out of there, “yesterday”. 😈

Indeed, by all accounts related to me by current employees and customers, conditions have become even worse since I left. I now suspect the company’s Denver arm is a prime candidate to be bought out by Amazon, who is starting a new conventional grocery chain to supplement their premium chain, Whole Foods. Amazon is slated to open the first stores in the new chain by end of 2019. And Amazon lockers are now popping up in my former employer’s stores, possibly a “clue in plain sight” as to their fate. I could have been out on the street next year, and lost out on seven years’ worth of pension payments, had I not left when I did back in 2016, when the getting (out) was good.

***

While all this unfolded, a parallel development occurred in my life. In early 2009, a co-worker lent me the four Twilight Saga books. I thought to myself, “I could write something better than that.”

So I did.

Without any objective analysis of whether such project would be commercially viable, or could even reach its intended audience.

Since I also wanted my project to be “Better than Twilight” on an actual technical writing level as well, I enlisted in a highly regarded professional writing critique group, and refined “Vampire Syndrome” to the Nth degree for three years, whilst during this same time period E.L. James was beginning to post the fan fiction that eventually begat her “Fifty Shades Of Grey”series.

Perhaps my goal should have been to be technically “worse” than “Twilight”, not “better”, but that’s another story. James’ story, to be exact. 😈
Don’t #AskELJames , Don’t Tell

Once “Vampire Syndrome” was completed in 2012, every ‘creative’ person I encountered gushed over this “million-dollar idea”, and I received nothing but encouragement to seek publication for it. The major New York publishers all passed on it, in their search for the next big cash cow (which turned out to be, you guessed it, “Fifty Shades Of Grey”!).

A small press, PDMI Publishing, LLC, picked up “Vampire Syndrome” in 2013, and it appeared at least I could make some sort of mark with it, in spite of the Big Five’s lack of enthusiasm for so-called “million-dollar ideas”.

The problem there was, the local bookstores for whom the small presses had traditionally looked to as targets to distribute their books to, started to turn their collective noses up to any books not published by the Big Five, dooming hundreds of small presses to their demise within a few years. In a stunning irony, the decline of national chain bookstores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble enabled the local bookstores to take their place as relentless pushers of “Big Five books only”.
How Indie Bookstores Are Killing Indie Books

In an even higher level of irony, the local bookstores’ hitching their wagon exclusively to the Big Five also means they are quite dependent on Barnes & Noble’s continued existence as well. If the new owners of B&N ever decide to liquidate the chain, the Big Five will take a huge hit, likely shrinking to the Big Four or even Three to blood-let down to the level where local bookstores and mass retailers would be able to support what’s left of them. Which will also greatly reduce the diversity of the books on local’s shelves. The perfect karmic payback for their rejecting the small presses. All the small press books and authors they could have been selling have long since gone off to Amazon, taking with them the shelf diversity local bookstores once prided themselves on.
Kristen Lamb:
Play to Win: Authors, Empires & Why Amazon is Killing NYC Publishing
Barnes & Noble SOLD: Goliath has Fallen & What This Means for Writers

With the Big Five New York publishers’ acquisition standards becoming more and more restrictive and formulaic as time marched on, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing became inundated with books, making “discovery” a huge problem for all non best-seller authors. Just type in “vampire” into Amazon’s Search, and you’ll see what I mean. And now the Big Five’s standards have tightened to the point where authors will only send them the type of projects they think will be the next “trend” for the Big Five to acquire. If “bullying” is the next perceived trend, literary agents’ inboxes will soon be filled with queries for “bullying” novels. We have reached a point where authors will not even bother to query the unique works they created from their “heart”, leaving those works to the vast, in-discoverable voids of Amazon, and we are all the poorer in creative reader and author spirit for this.

So, once PDMI closed its doors, my two completed Vampire Syndrome Saga novels headed for Smashwords, because I admire Mark Coker’s business model and his dedication to the true spirit of independent author voices, which the Big Five publishers and their local bookstore “pets” have long since foresaken. It also doesn’t hurt my “discoverability” that there are only half a million or so books on Smashwords, versus twelve-million plus on Amazon, meaning someone is “24 more times likely” (in general statistic terms) to discover my book through a keyword search.

I did mention that other ‘creatives’ such as fellow authors, just loved my “million-dollar idea”. One of them was Joel Eisenberg, Hollywood development producer and author of his own “The Chronicles Of Ara” book series. Joel, a former teacher for special-education students, loved my character Jack Wendell, a young man with Down Syndrome, and how Jack dealt with the challenges of being accepted into a world of Vampires who were biased against him to the point of ordering Jack’s assassination.
Joel Eisenberg Review of “Vampire Syndrome”

So Joel, God bless him, pitched “Vampire Syndrome” as a television project through the inner hallways of Hollywood.

Which turned out pretty much like I suspected it would. Hollywood, like the Big Five, goes for the easy money cash cows. Sequels, reboots, etc. If nothing else, at least my project left a few Hollywood execs hunched around Beverly Hills meeting room tables scratching their heads going “WTF?”, during pitches that briefly interrupted their plans to reboot some other very-well-known property for the eighth-zillionth time. 😈

Same thing as the Big Five. The ‘creatives’ loved it, but as far as the “suits” are concerned, my “million-dollar idea” won’t buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The unique curse of my “million-dollar idea” was that only some other creatives were excited about it, when I had really written it to reach John and Jane Q. Public. People said they wanted something “better and more original than Twilight”; I built it, but they didn’t come. The “suits” and the public went for Fifty Shades and the endless reboots instead.

Not exactly encouragement for me to write any “hundred-thousand-dollar” ideas, is it? 😈

So, as I close the chapter on the Chapters and move on with my life, I can reflect on my epic, strange circle-jerk to “nowhere”; a Hunter S. Thompson-worthy grand hallucination that somehow came full circle to where I started, leaving me with a new and profound appreciation for how good my “normal” life really is. If I wish to indulge in some “vain hope” in the future, I can just buy some lottery tickets. After all, the odds are about the same as making it big in the publishing world, and it doesn’t consume a year or more of all your free time (plus editing, formatting, cover design, promotion, et.cetera, afterward!) just to write a lottery ticket. 😈
Finally, I have a well-reasoned comeback for anyone who ‘critiques’ me for buying lottery tickets. A few seconds each time of handing over $5 every now and again, or years and years spent writing tales that are ignored? Damn, I might be too rational to be an author, now that I think about it. Authors always seem emotionally attached to their creations, their characters; but if no one else relates to your characters, what’s the point?

There I go making sense again…

If anything about all this disappoints me, it’s that my saga had the potential to raise general awareness about people with special needs, and possibly have opened/changed minds of some of the prejudiced. But it could not do this without reaching wide distribution, and without the ” suits’ ” support, this will never happen.

Thus, the time I would have spent writing “in vain” is much better spent by volunteering for Special Olympics and other organizations that make a real (not fictional) difference in the lives of those with special needs.

Instead of “writing to make a difference”, I will make a difference in the real world. The “sword” (physical action) is now mightier than the “pen” (ideas/concepts), in this case.

And, unlike so many other blogs from the “early 2010’s heyday of blogging” that just ceased after some random post, this one gets a proper closure.

To sum it up, my advice is “Never forget the original purpose of why you are doing something.” Keep asking yourself, “Are my long-term actions still true to my original goals and intent?” Most important, if you are no longer fulfilling your original purpose (without a better purpose taking its place), take corrective action.

There are the rare few whose long-term vocations/avocations evolve into a better purpose than was originally planned. If this is your case, you are truly blessed. Carry on!

The rest of us are still lucky to stay true to the original purposes. I joined my former employer thirty years ago, for a safe, secure career with a long-term company. Twenty-five years later, the long-term security of my career became questionable. So I quit.

My goal with writing fiction was to reach the public, cause relevant discussions, inspire people, and in the best case provide the spark for some people to overcome their prejudices. Despite the love for the story shown by a few other creatives along the way, this didn’t happen. So I quit.

Thank you to all who supported me over the ten years of this “trip”.

Vampire Syndrome: The Spotify Playlist

All over the map, just like my Vampires.
Vampire Syndrome Playlist – Spotify

“Vampire Conspiracy” now available on Smashwords.

Dean Vampire Conspiracy Cover

Jack Wendell’s battle for survival continues in ‘Vampire Conspiracy’, book two of the Vampire Syndrome saga. Jack finds himself at ground zero in the never-ending battle between Human Vampires and the space-alien Pures.

The other Human Vampires discover Jack’s secret power. A power the Pures covet. Jack leverages his power as a bargaining tool to start uneasy peace negotiations between the Humans and the Pures.

Jack’s desire for peace with the Pures is thwarted at every turn as the Pures kidnap Human Vampire leaders, including Jack’s girlfriend Zetania Vinescu, Chief Venator (law enforcer) of Romania.

Jack knows that ending a war which has raged for thousands of years will not be easy. But what Jack doesn’t know is that another powerful enemy waits in the shadows, endangering the lives of both the Human Vampires and the Pures.

Can Jack defeat an adversary he knows nothing about, yet knows everything about him?

Vampire Conspiracy ebook on Smashwords

David’s Haunted Library: Ancient Enemies

Ancient Enemies: A “vampire book” that transcends the genre. I wish I delved into the inner politics of my vampires like Brian does for his!

HorrorAddicts.net

The world’s governments are a place of secret agendas and backstabbing politicians. It’s even worse when the ruling class is made up of vampires called the order. Their ruling council is called the Hegemony and they have been in charge of world politics for centuries. Every continental territory is ruled by a Hegemon, the Hegemon in charge of North America is a vampire scientist named Caroline.

Ancient Enemies by Brian McKinley begins with Caroline about to leave for a summit meeting of the Hagemony to talk about the future. She is leaving her lover Avery in charge of their home. Avery has been developing psychic powers and has been feeling out of place in Caroline’s world. Now with Caroline gone, Avery is faced with trying to protect Caroline’s scientific secrets and he has found a new woman who is attracted to him. Meanwhile, Caroline is trying to keep her position of…

View original post 426 more words

Now signed for TV development: “Vampire Syndrome”

“Vampire Syndrome” has been signed for TV development by Joel Eisenberg’s company Council Tree Productions.
Vampire Syndrome Dean Cover (small)