AN OBSERVATION CONCERNING… A RESURRECTION OF A REVOLUTION (AGAIN)

“There’s something in the, something in the way you were.”
-The Union Underground, “Revolution Man”

I was in an airport restaurant waiting out a sizable layover, inhaling a giant burger which probably wasn’t the best meal choice before becoming scrunched in an uncomfortable middle seat for two-plus hours. A family of four dined at the table next to me, and I took notice to the preteen girl on her phone—not in that way, creep. With disinterest, she sported a Green Day “Dookie” shirt, a black bandanna with printed red roses, and some Chucks on full display resting on the seat and not the ground.

It’s no secret that the ’90s are back. Television and movie reboots, showy merchandising and horrible fashion have consumed the trendy public. The latter is something I’m having trouble grasping; ’90s fashion wasn’t necessarily a trend, but rather a statement of carelessness. Work boots were scuffed, but not from labor, jeans were baggy and ripped and not purchased as such, shirts were stretched and tattered, and flannel was considered all-season attire. Showering was optional, hair was mangy and long and being on time and tidy were mere suggestions. It was gross, yet people desperately attempt to recreate the look in the modern era.

Trends are trends so there will always be a validation of why a certain era repeats itself, but living in the ’90s, and being just old enough to process the aura of the time, I believe it’s not necessarily a decade that people should purposely emulate. Why do you want to look homeless and act depressed? Those are two real issues people deal with.

Queue the music scene. Grunge music had a certain influence on the minds of young adults, and though I still love the style today, it truly shaped a confused generation. The obsession with self-loathing created a flock of unmotivated troubled youths and it was fantastic in a bittersweet way, but also something that should have stayed in the decade. I was a preteen when Kurt Cobain died and I had a Nirvana poster; I wasn’t a preteen wearing a shirt of an album that was made years before I was even a thought or unplanned accident in my parents’ minds. It’s okay to expand your musical horizons, but don’t lay claim to a scene you weren’t even alive during, or too young to even process. I love the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, but the ’90s and ’00s are what I relate to and support like one of my disappointing sports franchises. Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m beginning to experience what past generations have.

Old person phrase in three, two, one: “Kids these days just don’t get it!”

This is how all generations act though: we grasp onto things from the past because they’re still relevant and always will be—especially music. I personally believe that attitude derived from music repeats itself every three decades. Let’s assess (keep in mind that all decades and generations had a little of everything so don’t get all fussy; it’s just that some styles were a little more dominant depending on the listener):

  • ’60s & ’90s: Rock music that preached peace and love through revolution and disrespect for authority during troubled times.
  • ’70s & ’00s: The rise of disco and dance from bell bottoms to boy bands to groovy funk and soul and pop stars, and from punk and glam rock to bubblegum beats and scremo.
  • ’80s & ’10s: Synthesizers, extreme catchiness, experimental pop sounds and ridiculous hair and colorful garb—just a whole lot of crazy and weird going on essentially, but it worked and still does.

So in a way, we’re due for another musical revolution in rock music. Has our current love for the ’90s predicted such a trend? I hope so from a musical standpoint. Much of my writing has subtle—and obvious—musical undertones. Many tracks have had an impact on my life and that will be apparent in my upcoming novel, “Forgotten Kids,” set to release in the fourth quarter of this year.

There are over 200 musical references in the work, and 44 of said references were direct lyrics to set the scene and tone of the narrator. However, and writers please note the following if you haven’t dealt with song permissions, I was forced to reword the lyrics.

Here’s why: My publisher suggested that I go about getting permissions for each lyric used. After talks with Universal and Sony—most songs are controlled by those two industry titans—I was directed to Hal Leonard, the world’s largest music publisher. They asked for $300 a song which was non-negotiable (even though I tried). For all you math fans, that would come out to $13,200 for lyric usage.

There are three issues I have with this, though I do understand why the charge is in place: First, the novel will not make that much money unless this post is shared a billion times along with marketing techniques going exactly right (which they never do). Second, the combined lyrics make up just 1.25% of the entire book, so who’s to say that the songs sell the book rather than the book selling the songs; and though I love all these tracks, because of the era when most were produced, I could find another song that holds the same meaning without altering the tone of the narration, the character’s personality or the overall plot. Third, the excuse of intellectual property.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa; intellectual property is important, you jerk!”

I agree. Why wouldn’t I agree? I have intellectual property (well, property at the least) out there as well, but it’s one thing to say it greatly matters and another to act upon the reasoning behind the claim. I spoke with an artist’s representative who informed me that the use of their lyrics was not approved; Hal Leonard said they were for $300 a pop. I respected the artist’s (the intellectual proprietor) request.  Also, I spoke to the lead singer of a band who gave me permission to use their lyrics at no charge because they were the primary songwriter; Hal Leonard said I still had to pay $300. After I updated the band (the intellectual proprietor) on the music publisher’s decision, they simple asked, “Who the hell is Hal Leonard?” It doesn’t seem like intellectual property is taken that seriously—the system is broken.

Music is not, however. There will always be more fantastic lyrics, rhythms and solos, but we need to evolve instead of regress. If you remember, I was irritated by slow covers that seem to still be infesting commercials and airwaves, and I’m getting worried that new artists are struggling for exposure, and it may be due to over-saturation, a dwindling attention span and a lack of generational uniqueness. An author friend of mine talked about this with his 21-year-old son recently; his son couldn’t depict something wonderful from his own time, and that’s why there’s a trend to delve deep into other generations’ gifts.

With that being said, there’s plenty of talent and greatness out there. We’re on the verge of a new decade; let’s see what it has to offer. Keep listening, for troubled times have a way of bringing the best out of music.

An Observation Concerning… Good Mainstream Storytelling

“Do you think that we could play another game, maybe I can win this time?”
-Disturbed, “The Game”

I’m not one to offer spoilers; I don’t need to prove to a near-18 million other people that I was able to watch a program at its scheduled time like the rest of them, and then boast about the fact while ruining all the procrastinators’ days. Yes, I’m talking about “Game of Thrones.”

John Koblin, The New York Times- ‘Game of Thrones’ breaks its own ratings record

With two episodes remaining and a plethora of theories that will most likely be crushed in the opening five minutes of “Game of Thrones 72” this upcoming Sunday (May 12, 2019, 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on HBO, or illegally streamed at your convenience), I’m done guessing and I’m ready for closure. However, I will offer this for a Mother’s Day prediction: a woman, multiple women at that, will play a key role in everything. I think it has come to the point in the show where I wouldn’t be surprised if they killed off all men.

Okay, that sounded like I was being a bitter person complaining about agenda and trends. It’s not as bad as say “Captain Marvel” or “The Incredibles 2” where the writers added some dialogue that can correlate to today’s issues. Ah, Hollywood. Yet, I will say this about “Game of Thrones”: The storytelling has been suburb, even after George R.R. Martin agreed to let HBO steer the story in whichever racy violent way they desired.

Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes- How will George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” books end?

We’ve fallen in love with the setting and life—perhaps that’s why so many men have beards today—and the characters have become memorable. Frankly, for the longest time I was hoping the White Walkers would just end all things because almost every character became insufferably annoying at least three times a season—good or evil. The dialogue is well scripted, there’s humor and drama and whole lot of conflict and tension. We can list all the elements we want, but the reason the storytelling has been so fantastic isn’t because “Game of Thrones” as a whole has become this trendy production and marketing giant, but because viewers love or hate it and obsessively share their thoughts and predictions. Simply put: it’s impactful in everyday life—even though it’s a fantasy! Think about when you’re meeting a new acquaintance; eventually they will ask, “Do you watch ‘Game of Thrones’?”

There’s also the people who take pride in not watching it. That’s about all I will say about that because no one cares.

Are there some holes in the story? Sure—especially the conception of commuting time and some coincidental aspects that are forced to be made sense by uber-fans. I can’t go into detail quite yet because I don’t want to give anything away to the procrastinators, but if someone has to look something up or have some detailed explanation that still doesn’t make sense presented to them, then perhaps something could have been done differently along the way. In other words: nothing is perfect. For example: I thought the end to “La La Land” was fantastic while someone else I know disliked the outcome. Eesh, that’s about as opposite as you can get from “Game of Thrones.”

Viewers have become obsessed with what will happen in the end, but the truth of the matter is that many people will be satisfied and many others will be disappointed. That, however, isn’t a bad thing because it embraces the full force of the plot, and portrays the talent of great storytelling, and, in this case, great acting.

I watched the “The Following” through its entirety, and for those who have seen the show, there was an antagonist, Emma Hill (Valorie Curry), that I grew to loathe tremendously. In fact (SPOLER ALERT!!!), when she died, I still didn’t think her death was good enough even though she was impaled through the heart with a sharp splintered wooden stake (and she wasn’t even a vampire). That’s a tribute to Curry’s acting skills; she made me dislike a character so much I wanted that person to die in such a horrible way that I still can’t decide on how.

Transition to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). If or when Cersei dies, will it be good enough? Kudos to Headey, and the rest of the cast.

So here we are, close to the end of “Game of Thrones” (queue the spinoffs). It has been a wild time-consuming ride in a magical world of sex and gore, and it will be missed. Thank you George R.R. Martin, HBO and the amazing writers, producers, cast and crew that have made this all possible.

Since more people watch the same movies/shows than read the same books, what is your favorite mainstream moving-picture story? What film or series was the closest to being perfect in your mind?

Answer if you must, and squeeze it into your “Game of Thrones” conversations this week so people have something planned to watch after May 19, 2019.

An Observation Concerning… My Annual Washington Capitals Post-Playoff Post

“Just when you think you’re in control, just when you think you’ve got a hold, just when you get on a roll, oh, here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again.”
-OK Go, “Here It Goes Again”

There was a nice break from disappointment in last year’s championship post, but old habits die hard for the Washington Capitals. As a fan, another early exit stings, however, I’m not about to claim it hurts less because they won the Stanley Cup last year. In fact, this one will linger a little longer due to wasted opportunities, a sense of urgency for the dwindling hopes of a dynasty, and the eerie fall into familiarity.

Okay, the Pittsburgh Penguins getting swept helps a little, but it was by a Barry Trotz-led New York Islanders squad that was supposed to be garbage this year.

And the stinging returns once more.

Does experience actually matter or have the Caps reverted back to underachieving heartbreak? The team was essentially the same group that won the coveted cup last year, so one would assume that they would be able to hold a 2-0 series advantage against arguably the 16th best team in the playoffs: a Carolina Hurricanes team they swept 4-0 in the regular season. Or they would at the very least be able to hold a two goal lead at home in a game seven that shouldn’t have been happening to begin with. Fans and analysts can claim that T.J. Oshie’s game four injury played a vital part in losing four out of their last five games, and Michel Kempny’s exit before the playoffs even started doomed the squad from making another deep run, but those are just excuses. The Hurricanes had injuries as well, and even more players have been added to the list in their second-round series against the Islanders—a series they lead 3-0 at the moment.

So are the Hurricanes that good? No. Sebastian Aho is pretty decent, but he can barely be considered a top-50 talent. So are they young? Sure, but that’s not an excuse either because their youngest star, 19-year-old Andrei Svechnikov, was knocked out early in game three against the Caps courtesy of a few powerful rights by Alexander Ovechkin, and just returned to the lineup last night.  The two players who really stabbed a dagger in the hearts of the Caps organization and fan base were Jordan Stall and Justin Williams, 30 and 37 respectively.

What’s the secret to the Hurricanes’ success then? It has to be momentum, and this is why the Stanley Cup playoffs are great, but also devastating at the same time. This has been a wild (no pun intended) year so far; all four wild card teams moved on to the second round, and only three higher seeds won their first-round series, and two of them had to clinch in game sevens, including a miraculous comeback by the San Jose Sharks over the Vegas Golden Knights. Out of the four wild card teams, the Hurricanes are the one team that can’t truly validate their magic.

Everyone is aware of how great the Tampa Bay Lightning played this season (and everyone is still aware of the President’s Trophy curse). Maybe it’s shocking the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the Lightning in the first round, but I didn’t find it surprising that they won the series. They have a superstar in Artemi Panarin, one of the league’s best young defensemen in Seth Jones, and all the acquisitions they made at the trade deadline were bound to pay off. In fact, they may be the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference at the moment, leading their series against the Boston Bruins, 2-1. The Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars both have perennial superstars as well: Nathan MacKinnon, Jaime Benn, and Tyler Seguin to name a few. The Avalanche have a top-ten offense, tallying 260 regular season goals, and the Stars allowed the fewest goals in the league (202) due to a stout defense and Vezina Trophy-finalist Ben Bishop.

With this being said, the Caps failed to take advantage of said wild situation. With most of the top competition ousted, including the pesky Penguins, they had a grand opportunity at being able to chant “back to back” as Oshie preached during last’s year celebration.

Perhaps they were a tad too lax throughout the series, perhaps they’ve adopted this young societal mindset of full entitlement expected after little to no accomplishment, but there needs to be some urgency if the organization wants to take advantage of a window that has been closing for over half a decade now.

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post- Capitals prepare for offseason focused on the roster’s fringes rather than its core

The core isn’t that young and it showed in both overtimes of game seven against the Hurricanes as stamina was an issue. Nine players are set to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, and 2020 is a pivotal year for stars Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby to receive new contracts, not to mention Ovechkin’s contract is up in 2021. If the Caps are to extend their title window, they need to start acting like 2018 wasn’t some fluke.

David Hookstead, The Daily Caller- TV ratings for the NBA playoffs down 19%, NHL playoffs up 1%

Every Stanley Cup playoff game is a battle; it’s not like the predictable NBA playoffs which can be guessed after the ball is tipped at the start of the season. The parity and intensity of the NHL playoffs are on full display this year, leaving Caps fans saying, “Here it goes again.” Winning a championship doesn’t automatically change everything.

Good luck to the Hurricanes because they’re going to need it; next year they will revert back to their normal as well. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Blue Jackets will be way better, the Islanders should improve as well, and the Penguins will still be around—and that’s just in their division. The Montreal Canadians are on the rise, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a force, The Boston Bruins somehow continue to not get worse, and you don’t think the Lightning are really really pissed off right now—again?

Shout out to the Buffalo Sabres as well. They’re about due. Like, seriously, Buffalo.

Let’s not even get into how good the Western Conference will be.

The window is closing again, don’t let it shut.

An Observation Concerning… Reviewing Reviews

I never have nothing good to say, I’d rather tear things down, than build them up.
-The Offspring, “Cool To Hate”

If you haven’t been following society in the last decade-plus then there’s something wrong with you, and you need to get out of your sweatpants and breathe some fresh air (with different pants on—I don’t want anyone getting arrested and put on a certain list). On the other hand, if you have taken a moment to grace social media or tune into the news then you will realize that people complain about their freedoms and rights all the time—the best being the complaint about freedom of speech. However, the sole fact that someone is openly complaining about their freedom of speech without authoritative consequence means, in fact, that they’re free to speak, so it really makes no sense sometimes.

The point is that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that’s how it should be, but as we progress from a “networking” standpoint, too many voices are being heard. Sounds like a mental problem. Oops, I mean, “disorder.” Remember, you need to be sensitive toward others’ issues. Actually… this is where society becomes a tad hypocritical.

In the process of telling people what they’re doing wrong, you’re also telling them how to act, think, and speak. Who’s taking away whose freedom of speech now? When we start arguing about rights and freedoms, we’re really only arguing with each other, not necessarily the “government.” And when we argue with each other, we—yep, you guessed it—censor each other. It’s kind of funny how double standards complete a full circle.

Everyone has had a platform for some time now; everyone has a pedestal to preach their regurgitated theories. Most opinions have spanned generations; it’s not like these philosophical rationalizations are fresh outlooks on life that will revolutionize society. With that being said, more and more people are offering their opinions from the way a country should be run to how well a refrigerator runs.

Let’s force an analogy here. Grade : Students :: Reviews : Authors

Grades help or destroy students, and place them amongst their peers and higher education; reviews help or destroy authors, and place them amongst their peers and the direction of their career. If you higher-education folk recognize that format of the analogy, it’s from the MAT, which is a brutal placement exam used by some graduate programs. Within this analogy explanation, there’s another comparison: both can be explained by objectiveness and subjectiveness.

The MAT is objectively brutal because many of the timed questions you just will not know and don’t have extra seconds to work out the answer. If you answer 79 of the 120 correct, it means your IQ is in the top 2%. A D+ makes you a genius on this test. Why would they make a test so hard that brilliant people would still miss 40 questions? Beats me, but others may know why.

When some questions may be difficult for one, they may be easy for another. For example, people who know how to play an instrument may understand music terminology while someone who just listens may miss the reference; or someone who has an extensive vocabulary may not be able to answer a math equation and vice versa. Subjectively brutal.

Reviews for authors will be objective or subjective, but what’s their true worth?

I personally prefer objective reviews. I feel that the reader looks more at the story and writing rather than the topic or opinions of characters. Here are four good examples:

  • “…[the author explains almost everything via narrative instead of leaving things up to interpretation].”
    • This is good constructive criticism that an author should take into account. Your readers aren’t dummies, they can figure things out.
  • “The plot was good: it progressed more quickly than it would have in reality, but that kept the read[er] engaged, there are some inaccuracies, but not commonplace enough to deter most readers.”
    • This suggests that the book could have benefited from a little less pace, and the author should either watch their fact checking or consistency, but it doesn’t bash the story for minor issues.
  • “This is a fast and easy read… the characters are well written and the author gives great attention to detail. There’s plenty of mystery and just enough good humor to keep you reading till the end.”
    • This directly focuses on readability, character development, and the author’s style, and also the dynamics of what makes the narrative engaging.
  • “…the story is complex, with interweaving parts and historical references that will force you to use knowledge you may have tucked away… and in the end, feel that the book enriched my overall learning experience beyond just the story itself.”
    • This gives other potential readers a little more detail in what they’re getting themselves into, but doesn’t summarize the plot, and also presents plenty of intrigue, almost mimicking what one could expect in the story.

Subjective reviews are simply based on a reader’s preference, but are still valid because everyone has different tastes. However, does preference tell others more about the book or the reviewer? A little of both, but a subjective review is more of a statement than a critique if that makes sense. Here are three good examples:

  • “Every single woman in the book (and there are many) is inexplicably smitten with CHARACTER. It seems as though the majority of them only exist in the book to show what a charming, seductive man he is. There isn’t a woman in the entire book that isn’t painted as either a dumb, lust-stricken bimbo or a mere tool to increase the book’s sex appeal.”
    • This shows others more about the reviewer’s stance on how women are portrayed, and there’s no significant input to the main plot. Every author is allowed to write characters how they choose, and occasionally stereotypes are written with intention to boost another character’s traits. This reviewer actually proves that, but puts a negative spin on a writer’s strategy.
  • “There were way too many characters to keep up with without getting confused or simply bored. At least three or four of them could be cut from the novel without affecting the story or the relationships of the other characters in any way.”
    • This speaks more of how confused and bored this specific reviewer became. Just because they couldn’t figure out why the characters were placed in the book, doesn’t mean they don’t belong. An author feels that each character in their work serves a purpose, even if minor.
  • “I barely related to any of [the characters].”
    • This one always makes me laugh. Read a different book then, not everyone is going to relate to you. A 50-something-year-old bitter man who suffered through tragedy doesn’t relate to a 20-something-year-old cheerful girl whose biggest issue in life so far was when she posted an unflattering picture on Instagram.

Other issues that stem from a subjective review are the thought of whether or not the writing was strong or poor, and reader misconceptions. Here are two good examples:

  • “BOOK by AUTHOR was a clever endearing read but riddle[d] by [the] misuse of words, incomplete sentences, and dropped suffixes. One has to hope that the ARC presented was unedited and not the final effort.”
    • This is a little questioning because I don’t think any published book would have incomplete sentences, but the main problem here is the insult. What if the reviewer was wrong (and probably was)? They’re teetering on the edge of defamation if an author was to overreact.
  • “There were a few factual inaccuracies that were a bit too ridiculous to excuse.”
    • This was a review posted for a FICTION book that WASN’T historical fiction. So… yeah.

People need to remember, especially when dealing with fiction, that a novel is not a term paper, and to be mindful of what genre you’re reading.  Some situations may not make total sense to heighten the intensity of the plot, and some sentences will not be grammatically correct for style and voice purposes. The best example I can give of this is from Jonathan Coe’s “The Rotters’ Club”.  The book ends with a 13,955-word sentence. Do you think those 30-some pages were grammatically and structurally correct? Probably not, but it captured the essence of exactly what Coe was trying to write.

So what really matters in a review? What should you really consider? You don’t have time to dissect what everyone is saying, but look for similarities in the positive and negative aspects of a novel. If just one person doesn’t like the writing style and is finding multiple mistakes, but nine do enjoy the style and don’t mention any errors, then that person probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about. On the contrary, if nine people say the book is poorly-written, and one person thought it was the best book they’ve ever read, then that may be the support of a family member or friend.

Unfortunately, that happens all the time, which is also fine. Another danger is that other “readers” will copy tidbits from posted reviews. You see this with paid promos. This recently happened to me. I ran a promotion for one of my novels and received a two-star review that simply stated the reader didn’t find the book interesting at all, the sentences didn’t make any sense, and the book was poorly written. I’m fine if I get a two-star review if that reader didn’t find the book interesting—again, people have different tastes—but attacking the writing without examples to back it up raised questions of the validity of the reviewer. The woman who ran the promo called that reviewer out, and they ended up recanting their post.

Authors know the gig; we know that there are going to be bad reviews for our books and that’s perfectly okay. Just make sure you have an explanation on hand, because, as we also know regarding society, people are on edge to make a spectacle of something that isn’t important because they have the freedom to do so.

In conclusion:

Reviewers, be honest and constructive, and don’t censor a person’s writing because of bias.

Authors, be willing to accept criticism and use it, and ignore the subjectiveness—don’t change your style to appease a handful of disgruntled readers.

Be you.

An Observation Concerning… Rejection and Defeat

I wrote this article for a new indie press, Universal Butterfly, and it was originally published in their August 2018 Newsletter. You can subscribe to their newsletters via their website by clicking here.

“Please please tell me now.”
-Duran Duran, “Is There Something I Should Know”

We live in a world where rejection and defeat are being erased, criticism would rather be avoided and freedom to judge is safe behind a screen. Unfortunately, that isn’t as good as it sounds. People need to be vulnerable so they can overcome their exposure, and that means they must lose and be told “no” at least once in their life.

For lucky ones such as myself, I’ve lost and been rejected consistently throughout my life. Don’t worry, I’m doing all right (well…), plus it makes victory and acceptance so much sweeter and rewarding. The publishing industry has taught me all so well.

I’ll compare getting a book traditionally-published to picking up a potential suitor. You worked hard on developing your product (your experience, personality, presentation, etc.), presented it to multiple people (chicks or dudes), and then were embarrassingly denied over and over, not knowing which aspect of you was actually at fault (probably everything). Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll get friend-zoned, teased with the possibility of something developing further, waste your time, and end up going to your safety net: Plenty of Fish. Self-Publishing is the Plenty of Fish of the book industry.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with self-publishing – there’s definitely some quality out there, but we all know it’s mostly for instant and stubborn gratification. It’s a pool of willingness, and people don’t like to gloat about what they did after the fact… and then what about paying for services? Oh, boy. Are we talking about dating still or publishing? I don’t even know anymore.

Rejection in the publishing industry is going to happen; it’s inevitable so don’t go in thinking you’re going to be a bestseller on your first draft. I always say to no one in particular, “There are a lot more starving musicians out there than successful ones,” and the same goes for writers.

I’ve been tough on Self-Publishing thus far, but there are two reasons that back my thoughts: I’m experienced with the platform and Self-Publishing isn’t as independent as it was a decade or so ago. In 2011, Amazon ruined that. They, like they do with everything, monopolized the industry. So, in fact, there’s no independence in independentpublishing from that standpoint. They coddled you, they stroked your ego, they took your work and buried it in over-saturation – however, that’s for another article.

So what is the best platform? If I knew then I would be a bestselling author, and honestly, everyone has different needs and ideas of success. However, I can offer an opinionated and realistic guide for your goals in really bad dating metaphors.

Self-Publishing: Netflix and chill.
Agents: Trendy and stuck up and will probably end up alone. 
Imprints: The good-looking yet inferior best friend, but if drunk enough, you might get lucky.
Big Houses: Mean Girls, but a She’s All That scenario isn’t out of the question, just a slim possibility.
Small Indie Presses: A great marriage – traditional, but independent George is still alive.

I had a recent discussion with a publisher in the UK about the industry and he was explaining how publishers don’t want to spend the time on a project that will require a lot of work and that they tend to lack in efficiency at times. Though the latter depends on the house, imprint, or press, the former is spot on. This means you need to make sure that your work is polished. There can be mistakes, because there will be, but make sure your submission is not littered with grammar and spelling mishaps. Smaller publishers receive a lot of submissions so don’t ruin your chances over things you can control.

Also, 90% of manuscripts sent to industry professionals are usually rejected (it’s like 95% by agents), and many just from a review of the query letter because of the amount of submissions they receive. This is why making sure the story has good structure, your writing has great skill and the plot and characters present a lot of intrigue is so important – that, and you have to have a polished product.

Advice: Computers can hold a lot of documents, save as many drafts as you need. My books sometimes go through ten drafts, and there are still mistakes. Editing services cost a lot of money so if you’re not established you really need to buckle down and sacrifice your time, but also let friends and family read through your work with fresh eyes. You will never be a good editor of your own work; that’s a fact. It’s easy to breeze over the words because you already know how they’re supposed to read.

If I may delve back into my connections in the UK, and I will, I have noticed that of the few I have submitted to in the past, they’re the most responsive whether it is acceptance or rejection. Since we’re focusing on the negative here, the constructive criticism received has been actually useful. If you think about it, anything beats silence or “it’s not a good fit for us” or “unfortunately at this time” or “the ending isn’t what I expected” or “your grammar and spelling are awful” or “you suck and you should give up.”

What can you take from that? Only submit to publishers in the UK. Wait, that wouldn’t help us out at all. The truth is, and another local publisher we know has alluded to this, that no one publisher is the end-all, be-all experts. You have a voice and you have a story so the amount of interest will differ, but if “no” has become a common reply in your inbox then you may want to consider revising a tad.

On one hand, I believe it’s a publisher’s duty to offer a critique or validation during rejection to help the industry as a whole. Here’s something to think about: print sales increased 1.9% across the board last year which is great, but not one new book sold more than one million copies. The point is that commoditization has over-saturated the market, and lesser quality works are devaluing the unique, great stories still vetting for discovery.

To sum up: people will still pay for something worth reading so make your story better.

However, it would help if you knew how to make sure your work is quality, and a simple “not for us” doesn’t do you or your manuscript any justice. You put a lot of effort into your story so you deserve an honest review.

Now, on the other hand (finally) you need to accept the critique and the rejection as well. They’re in the industry, you’re not. No matter what you think you know, you probably don’t know. No matter what your family and friends said, this is a merited unbiased opinion so take it for the sake of your and the industry’s progression.

Rejection and defeat are an important part of life so use both to get better. Separate yourself from the writers just trying something new for fun and become the writer willing to progress and make an impact.

An Observation Concerning… Verified Purchases

“You’ll never hear so much as a complaint from me, as long as, baby, you don’t lie to me.”
-The Fratellis, “Baby Don’t You Lie To Me!”

It’s probably not the wisest decision to target a corporation that’s well on their way to taking over the world, but no one is listening anyway, so why not.

As you may be aware, I’m an author. If not, then I suggest you click on another menu item on my site. No, I don’t have food available. Stop multi-tasking while at a restaurant, you’re confusing all of us! Authors don’t make a lot of money—the successful writers are a misrepresentation of the general wordsmith mass. For example, I can probably afford something off a value menu at a fast-food restaurant while someone like Dan Brown is eating somewhere classy like, oh, I don’t know, Olive Garden or Chili’s. There are a lot more starving artists than there are successful ones. Don’t worry, I’m eating just fine, let’s not take that out of context and label me “insensitive” or whatever other terms people use to blow things out of proportion.

The over-saturated market has created two constants: an author needs quality reviews, and to hit social media harder than a teenage girl. Wait, the phrasing on that seems wrong. You know what I meant though. Regarding the former, the catch-22 is that you need reviews to get sales, but sales to get reviews.

There’s something I can tell you from experience: People used to take advantage of the system by paying for fake reviews. As a ghostwriter, a company once reached out to me to write multiple reviews for a wage for each post. I didn’t want to do that, no matter how much I wanted to join Dan Brown at Olive Garden. So Amazon cracked down on these trends and put into effect a new review policy. Good, right?

Yes. They became stricter on where IP addresses and email accounts originated, and also started fully implementing the “verified purchase” requirements. Still good, right?

Yes, in a way. Sure, people can buy your product, but not everyone gets to review it. Here are two examples that aren’t allowed:

-“A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales”: As many authors know, especially ones that are trying to break into the industry, your family will probably be the first people to know about your published work, and they will buy it, no matter how dysfunctional they appear to be. They will read it, some will be more honest than others, and then they will want to help you out. Fantastic! So Amazon is essentially saying that your mom can’t tell you that you’re the best at everything. However, this just says “five-star” which makes it possible for a jealous sibling to give a sub-par or slanderous review just because. How is that fair? Still, it’s understandable in a way.

-“You must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months”: This right here irks me a bit. I had two excellent reviews by people who bought my book off Amazon, but since they hadn’t spent $50 yet, they weren’t eligible to post a review. Why does it matter? They bought a product, and wanted to review it. Sounds like they were verified purchasers, but I guess Amazon just needs to get paid.

This is where I don’t think it makes sense. Say you’re a self-published author who has used Amazon’s service to put their book out. Amazon gets a hefty cut as part of the sale, so wouldn’t they want more verified reviews to gain more revenue? I’m all for making sure the reviews are valid, but when they obviously are, but Amazon wants even more money on top of what they made from the purchase, then I believe they’re crossing a line.

Here’s an eye-opener for you: If an author sells a paperback book on Amazon at $8.99 the author receives a little over $1. Yum, that’s McDonald’s money right there.

Here’s another eye-opener for you: Amazon’s sales of products, which includes books, rose 25.5% in 2017, to $118.5 billion.

But people can’t review something unless they spend $50? It doesn’t seem like Amazon is hurting that much to purposely hinder the sales of their own authors.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to not buy anything from Amazon because they had messed up my last 6 orders of 2017. That’s pathetic for a multi-billion-dollar, industry-leading corporation if you ask me. I will tell you this as well, their screw-ups accounted for more than $50 easily. Interesting.

Despite what I said, there are some exceptions to what I will buy now on Amazon, but I better damn well spend $50 before I can say what they are. Uh-oh, Is there a drone outside my window right now? Shh!

Oh what the hell. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Hi Jeff!

I’m just saying there needs to be a little bit of flexibility here, but sadly, this isn’t all Amazon’s fault. If people were just decent to begin with then this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, there’s no way to monitor that without it affecting everyone from the big guy to the little guy, from the fraudulent to the honest.

An Observation Concerning… The Washington Capitals Winning the Stanley Cup. Wait, Really?

“Not a trace of doubt in my mind.”
-The Monkees, “I’m a Believer”

Yes, really. Don’t worry about that unseasonable chill outside either; it might just be the cold rising from the caverns of Hell.

Eesh, I thought this was supposed to be a happy post. It is! So it has been a few days now, but I still haven’t caught my breath—I still can’t believe that the Washington Capitals have won the Stanley Cup.

This is the type of moment that will stand still in time for fans of the franchise—and I’m sure NHL.com’s shop profits have proven that thus far. I know I’ve contributed to keeping some of their employees employed over the course of the weekend.

If you’ve read my posts consistently, and I know there are very few according to my stats, you can pick up a few things here and there about my life. I keep my internet presence fairly simple and my personal life separate, but here are two freebies if you didn’t know this already: I’m a huge Washington Capitals fan and I’m not 44-years-old, but am within a decade.

Why is that important? Well it explains some ailments and losing a step and some hair, but that’s not the reason nor is it a cry for sympathy, just a reminder I need to accept the aging process. Okay, we’re getting off track here… the mind seems to wander, you know. The reason 44 years is important is because this is the first time in that period that the Washington Capitals have won a Stanley Cup. Think about that; people were born and have already started their midlife crisis during that span.

Now, I think we’re well aware that hockey is the fourth most popular of the four major sports in this country—and that’s only because it’s considered one of the four major sports. If NASCAR was in that category then hockey may not even be recognized by many. However, if you watch the NHL you realize that every player on every team works harder than most other athletes (I’m definitely not saying that other athletes don’t work hard, so let’s not let sensitivity kick in and concentrate on a minuscule statement while losing focus on every other sentence in this entire post). In hockey there isn’t a pitching staff in which each member throws a few innings every few games, there isn’t a rest for the defense while the offense is on the field and vice versa, and there isn’t more than half the team sitting on the bench in their warm-ups as a handful of superstars spend a majority of the time on the court. In other words, it’s the epitome of what a team represents and how hard work by each individual is the only way a moment can bring so much boyish joy to grown men.

Quick team note: I called Billy Baldwin a prick on social media because he didn’t even wait a day to preach his political agenda after the Caps won the cup. People waited 44 years for this, and he ruined it in less than a day just to try and get some chuckles from all his followers who accidently thought he was Alec. With that being said, politics needs to stay out of it, and Devante Smith-Pelly, please be the bigger man here and attend the White House ceremony. Be there for your team, for your city, for the hundreds of thousands of good and average people who just want to enjoy their interests without a social asterisk for once. You’ve earned this and the fans love you just as much as they love every player on the team. That certainly trumps (wow, what a poor word choice) the opinion of one person who you disagree with.

Moving on.

No disrespect to other sports; I enjoy every league and obsess and stress over my loyalties equally, and that’s why this championship run means so much. I went out to DC for Game 3, and though I wasn’t able to get into the stadium, the excitement that spread over the city was an extraordinary moment to experience, and the spontaneity was worth every cent. People in the District were actually friendly with each other, they strode down the streets with smiles and glee, saying hello, shaking hands and high-fiving others, shouting their support for a team destined to change the entire outlook of great city starved for success. It had been since 1992 that a Washington franchise won a championship in their respective league—sorry, DC United, people still don’t take the MLS seriously I guess, but I see you and your four titles!

I know a Caps fan who cried for 30 minutes after the team lifted the cup and I’m sure there were thousands more and for longer stints; people said most others in DC weren’t at work on Friday because the celebration went through the night, and you know what, it was a free pass; and even congress could agree on one thing while “working” late hours: The Capitals.

For everyone who believes sports are merely recreational and lack deep meaning, watch the footage of the 6-block radius that was dedicated to fans on foot around Capital One Arena, watch the reactions of desperate individuals finally reveling in a moment that has plagued a community for 44 years, and think about the last time that many people gathered together with the same thing on everyone’s mind. You have to remember that a sporting event is the one thing—with maybe the exception of a concert—where a massive amount of people come together and share a common interest no matter their sex, race, age, political or religious affiliation, or whatever difference a person has with another. Tell me that’s not meaningful.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights had a wonderful season and did so much for the city of Las Vegas, especially following one of the most tragic events in this country’s history—again, tell me sports aren’t meaningful. What those players did for the community was amazing, and on a lighter note, after those fantastic pre-game productions, I’m sold that major professional sports in Las Vegas is a great thing.

The Caps worked harder than I’ve ever seen them this season, and Alexander Ovechkin has worked as hard as any player in any sport I’ve ever seen over his last 13 seasons—I mean he had to if he eats a chick-parm before games still for being in his thirties. Seriously, I can’t even have a turkey sandwich before I exercise without becoming bloated and sluggish, and I bet nutritionists and personal trainers hate him because he’s bad for their business.

TRAINER: You need to go on a diet.
CLIENT: I’m good. Ovi eats chick-parms before a game so I did before my workout, and I will after, and probably have one for dinner as well. That’ll make me three times in shape than he is!
TRAINER: He’s playing professional hockey and you’re doing a couple lunges and hitting the elliptical for 15 minutes.
CLIENT: Exactly! It’s like we’re twins!
TRAINER (whispering to self): With a huge weight and overall health discrepancy. CLIENT: What was that?
TRAINER: You’re doing great! Only four more lunges! You can do this!

The Washington Capitals deserved this championship. The players deserved it, the organization deserved it, and the fans deserved it. Cherish it forever, Caps fans, and always rock the red!

Now they just have to go and do it again. How hard is that?