Writing Life: On Being an Indie Author During #GrabYourWallet | by Reggie Lutz
Book Announcement and Writing Week in Review: 11/25-12/2 | by Kristen Twardowski
Okay, so before I begin this little rant, I need to clarify that I don’t hate Amazon. I have my books available through Amazon services, and I love that this is something I can do. There have been a few changes to services lately that are hostile to authors. (Not new in Amazon’s history as a business.) And there have been a few changes that seem a bit hostile to customers.
Before I unpack all of that, I need to provide context. So here are some links outlining the issues I am about to discuss.
First, we have changes to how authors are paid through the Kindle Unlimited feature available to consumers through Amazon Prime: http://www.inquisitr.com/2221623/kindle-unlimited-kenpc-explained-self-published-authors-could-be-looking-at-massive-pay-cut/
Next, we have the increased importance of reviews to the Amazon ratings system: http://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/3bsuig/amazon_changes_its_rating_system_now_its_more/
Then we have Amazon deciding what reviewers relationships to individual authors are: http://imysantiago.com/2015/07/02/amazon-a-virtual-marketplace-or-big-brother/
Before the changes to Kindle Unlimited payouts…
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So, there are a lot of things that writers go through that are shared with anyone working at other professions that kind of suck, and then there are the things that for writers feel like the end of the known universe.
Last week, I was catching up with Devon Miller, who just moved to the other coast, and she experienced the dreaded LOST BOX OF MANUSCRIPTS.
I’ve done that. Lost whole manuscripts. Once to a computer meltdown, once to wind. Yep. That scene from Wonderboys where the main character watches thousands of pages ride the wind into Pittsburgh’s three rivers? That happened to me. Except it was a much shorter piece, it was not in a major PA city, and there were no rivers. I was later able to reconstruct the story. The second version was probably better. (That particular piece was the novella, Fork You, which appears in Panverse One as well…
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A week and a couple of days late. Why? Because, as an “author’s update” there’s really not much to report, since little of what was detailed from the previous update in April has been progressed upon. However, I’ve committed myself to these monthly updates from a devotional and routine standpoint, so I’m pushing through after taking some time to contemplate a few things in lieu of actual writing news. So I’ll use headers this time and touch on a few things. Here I go.
I’ve often said that writing is one of the most solitary occupations a person can undertake, particularly in terms of writing novels, which has been my goal since I was a 19 year-old hopeful in early 1993. Well, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, there’s the egocentric notion that one’s first published novel should contain only his byline, and there’s no way my 19-20 year-old self would even contemplate doing what I have decided to do this year. . .
Partnering for Help
I’ve written in previous updates about a secret long story/novella project with an author friend (codenamed: Project Eros). That activity is still in play, but has recently changed a bit as we are going to go with a different idea, one larger in scope and duration. The original project was going to involve our pseudonyms, and it’s possible this Plan B project may do the same, it just depends on a couple of things which we are ironing out in this early stage. We’ll have to come up with a codename for it soon. I’m excited about this partnership and am glad I finally realized I needed to make a necessary sacrifice of ego to better accomplish my writing goals. I can’t wait to reveal my writing partner (of course it’s someone who has several completed/published novels in their resume). I want to wait until we’ve made significant progress first. I may even seek out another partner for a different novel project, but we’ll see. More on all this as it develops.
Nostalgia and Staying with Characters
As noted above, I’ve been doing this “serious writing” thing for the better part of two decades and so I have amassed a significant amount of writing work in that time, whether it’s poetry & lyrics, short fiction, attempts at long fiction like novels and serialized fiction, script work, editorials and essays, etc. Some of it published, much of it having never seen the light of day. Recently I’ve gone through my old file folders to rediscover some old works. What I’ve noticed a lot of times in my moments of reflection and review is that I tend to gravitate to a certain creative period of mine from which to draw inspiration. That time period is predominantly 1996 thru 2001. The characters I created during that time, and the stories I created for them, resonate the most with me for some reason. I keep coming back to them, especially the ones which haven’t had their stories completed yet (practically all of them), because I tend to think in a broad, long term sense having grown up obsessed with serials (television and comic books) and novels, fiction forms in which you stay with characters for a good while. These characters have remained a permanent part of me since their inceptions so many years ago, so it’s no surprised that they often tap me and my muse on the shoulder to say “Hey, remember me? We’ve still got my story to tell, you and I.” So even as I creep forward toward new things, my past creations are never too far away. The sad part of this could be that I don’t create as compelling characters and stories as I did in my twenties. Eh, then again, maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking.
Legacy and The Vault (of Unfinished Things)
Been thinking a great deal about legacy lately. And so, in consideration of legacy and my own longevity at this thing called writing, I’m seriously thinking about publishing here on this very site various unfinished (and likely never-to-be-finished) works here as both a bold reminder of what I failed to complete, but also as a representation of actual work produced. Essentially it’s the In Case I Get Hit by a Bus Tomorrow approach I’ve been taking to my creative stuff in recent years. Just getting it all out there, warts and all (well, within reason) so that these things can gain light and live in public while serving as actual artifacts of my having actually existed and done a thing or two with my time here. (Sidenote: I’ve done this with my music in recent years – Google me).
So, it’s very possible that soon there will be a category listing called VAULT in the sidebar menu. After all, the whole purpose of something titled RUCKERPEDIA is for it to be THE source of most things Brandon L. Rucker related, no?
Site reconfiguration points – The Sidebar: I recently updated the ABOUT page, which serves as a bio for yours truly. Updated details and links and such. There’s a new page in the menu called BIBLIOGRAPHY which essentially serves as a cover gallery for the physical books that contain my work. HELLO, JOURNAL is now where my ‘creative non-fiction’ or ‘notebook’ entries are housed. NEWS + UPDATES is now a handy category link to easily access monthly The Rucker Reports like this. The WORK SAMPLES category needs to be reworked, restocked, re-something. I’ll get to it around the time I put the VAULT up. Music widgets have been re-added to the sidebar, but eventually will be added to the menu under their own listing. The work never ends here for this one-man monochromatic production.
Current events – Authors: a few author friends of mine have books out or forthcoming, which I’ve written about here: Reggie Lutz, Jennifer Macaire and Nadine Darling. And finally the great Clive Barker has returned this month with his new novel The Scarlet Gospels.
Maybe next time I write one of these updates I’ll have actual progress to report. Until then, y’all be good out there.
Reading: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, various comics
Re-reading: Galilee by Clive Barker
Watching: Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, The Killing: Season 4
Playing: Destiny (Bungie/Activision) – Xbox One
Listening: Lamb of God
Heads up Wordpress peeps!
I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal for Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales over Memorial Day weekend. (First day it runs will be .99 and then go up. It starts on the 22nd)
Happy Summer reading!
Adding the link to the book here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TTDWT8K
Welcome to the first edition of Causing a Ruckus on Ruckerpedia, in which I your host conducts an exclusive Q&A interview session with someone you should know more about. In this inaugural edition I have fellow indie author Reggie Lutz (I’ve said this before, call her Regina at your own peril).
On Friday, May 1st via Amazon, Ms. Lutz (author of the novel Haunted) will release Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales, a small short story collection of ten terrific tales, featuring the lead story “Ice Mason”, originally published in Best New Writing 2008 (Hopewell Publications, 2008), and for which she received the Publisher’s Choice designation for the Eric Hoffer Award; “One-Hundred-Eyed Curse”, which originally saw light in the Greek Myths Revisited anthology (Wicked East Press, 2011); the novella “Fork You – A Gladiola Johnson Story (For Proserpine)” originally from Panverse One (Panverse Publishing, 2009); and the title story which was previously unpublished, while six other new stories round out the collection. So, without further ado, here’s my Q&A [ plus anecdotes ] with author Reggie Lutz.
RUCKER: So, inquiring minds want to know what’s the skinny on Reggie Lutz? Take us beyond your being the indie author of the novel Haunted and the new story collection Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales. Who the heck are ya?
LUTZ: I am an enigma wrapped in a mystery boxed in puzzlement and wrapped in a conundrum. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) What a big question! Although for simplicity’s sake, I’m a writer. In the 90s I was a radio broadcaster at a 50,000 watt FM station broadcasting the modern rock format. Stories and music are my first, truest loves.
RUCKER: During our recent chat I heard you pronounce your last name as Luh’ts, yet all these years I’ve pronounced it as Loots, thinking it was German derived. However, you say that the way I’ve said it actually isn’t too far from the Italian surname from which is derived? Tell us a historical story, Reggie.
LUTZ: This is funny because even within my family there are different pronunciations, which is really interesting to me because it is a four-letter, one-syllable word. The name, three generations ago, was changed in the course of immigration. It was originally Luzi, from my Italian ancestors.
[ Yeah, that falls right in line with many Italian immigrants in the twentieth century ]
RUCKER: In your own words, how would you describe your spankin’ new story collection, Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales (available Friday, May 1st on Amazon, folks)?
LUTZ: It’s an eerie, eclectic mix of stories featuring elements of urban fantasy, new weird, and interstitial fiction. I’ve been told it also has strong literary sensibilities. It’s hard to define, but for that reason I think it’s interesting and unique.
[ I’ve been reading it this week and I can’t disagree with that assertion. ]
RUCKER: Do you have a standout piece in this collection that’s particularly special to you? Yes, I’m asking you to pick your favorite child and explain why that child shines a little brighter than its siblings. Surely there’s one you hold most dear?
LUTZ: That is such a hard question! It keeps changing! The novella, “Fork You”, is near and dear to my heart. It was originally published in the Panverse One anthology and is how I became friends with Dario Ciriello who wrote the introduction for Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales. Then there is the title piece, which I love because I was able to include radio in the fiction.
RUCKER: I understand that in addition to the digital version of this book for the Kindle that there’s also a paperback edition … and, what’s that you say? It’s already available? Wait … what? I’m confused, Ms. Lutz. Got a story for us?
LUTZ: Ha! Yes. The paperback was also slated for release on May 1, but as I was going through, making my approvals, I accidentally made it available. After I discovered the error, I found that someone had already ordered it and I did not want to disappoint anyone else who might have discovered it by removing it from availability. In my head the official release date is still May 1st.
RUCKER: Your readers have come to expect unique story titles from you, some of which are in this very collection like “Famous Nudes in Winter Clothing”, “Fork You – A Gladiola Johnson Story (For Proserpine)” and of course the story the collection is named after. Do those eye-catching titles simply come naturally to you, or is it something you labor over a little bit? I’m guessing it’s the former.
LUTZ: It’s a bit of both. Sometimes a title is a struggle, so I’ll use something as a place-holder, just a way to reference the story I’m writing so that I can find it in the computer or notebook, depending on how it’s getting written. Sometimes the placeholder sticks. All three of those titles were initially placeholders until I decided they could stay.
RUCKER: You and I have talked about the difference between being a free-willing-polish-it-later “pantser”, which is what one has to do during NaNoWriMo for instance, or being an obsessive-compulsive like me which means you’re constantly rewriting and polishing as you go along. Which would be your usual tendency?
LUTZ: I tend to romanticize the idea of being a pantser. At heart that’s what I am, and it is how I approach a first draft, up to a point. But I find that in order to get to the end of a messy first draft I need to know a few things before I start, so I’m somewhere in the middle at present. I can’t revise as I go or I would never finish a piece, so I came up with a method for dealing with uncertainties in the first draft, which is to leave behind parenthetical notes to self. The parentheses act as a signal to look closely at something when it’s time for first pass edits. It gets confusing when parentheses are meant to be part of the text, however.
[ I can imagine. My friend, you’ve inspired me to try pantsing later this year, which I’ve not done in a great many moons. I’m sweating and twitching already! ]
LUTZ: The big thing is to write every day. I wake up, put the coffee on and 15 minutes later I am writing. I have a day job, though, which sometimes means I have to change that schedule. I find I am less productive on days when I have work in the morning. Methods for productivity are something I have been thinking about a lot lately. The single most useful thing that I do is write the first draft until it is finished, without revising until I get to the end. I think that’s just something I learned about how I write, meaning if I don’t push through to the end, I won’t finish something.
[ A lesson you’d think I’d stubbornly learn well in recent years. You see, this is why I try to stay associated with smart, inspiring people like you, Reggie. ]
RUCKER: Since you’re a music junkie like me, I have to ask: do you write to music – random selections or a created soundtrack – or do you have to have total silence? In other words, can your two loves coexist peacefully?
LUTZ: I do both, total silence and music. Music helps me get into the right headspace on days when I’m struggling to reach that state of story immersion, but if I’m not having a hard time getting there, I’ll dive into the fiction. Usually toward the end of a session I end up putting something on. Lately I’ve been listening to Hal Hartley’s soundtrack for Ned Rifle, which is this great minimalist ambient stuff that is really excellent, for me, to get into the right headspace. So can my two great loves co-exist peacefully? Sometimes, but not always.
[ I am exactly the same. Mostly anymore, though, I have to use music to obscure outside noise. ]
RUCKER: Because the lessons are always worth repeating, can you tell would-be aspiring indie authors what the most difficult and the most rewarding things about self-publishing have been for you?
LUTZ: The most difficult is still self-promotion and marketing. It can be a lot of fun, but the thing to remember is that if you want to make a living at this it has to be done. There are a lot of most rewarding things about self-publishing: creative control, you retain your rights, etc… I have to say, though, that my absolutely favorite thing about having gone this route is that there is something new to learn all the time. There were some things that were intimidating to do on my own before I started, and it felt awesome to realize that with a bit of effort I could learn to do those things on my own. It is worth the work. You are constantly accruing new skills.
RUCKER: I’m gonna take ya back now. Those early pieces you brought to my old virtual workshop, “Monkeymen” and “Grunts (NaNoWriMo working title)”, what are the fates of those old school pieces?
LUTZ: “Monkeymen” just stalled and hasn’t been completed, though I’d like to revisit it and perhaps restructure it as a novella. There’s actually a blog post on my site that sort of references what happened there. I was writing that during one of those times when my head kept getting turned by other ideas. I was juggling multiple projects at that time before I really developed a method for it, and Monkeymen turned out to be a casualty (Monkeymen was about a set of fraternal triplets born with prehensile tails and how they cope with that into adulthood).
[ Fascinating concept, I must say. Please get back to it sometime before I die. ]
“Grunts” I completed but I haven’t revisited that to do the serious edits it needs. It was a pretty bizarre and dark horror story that was incredibly painful to write, if artistically satisfying to execute. Thematically it’s really about the terror and uncertainty of going through life without purpose and what happens when your decisions are always made by external authority figures. If I can remember the setting and plot correctly, it’s about a nameless character called The Subject, who works at a call center. She is being stalked by a government spy who becomes obsessed and is then rescued (or is she?) by other government experiments gone awry, while the very nature of existence comes into question because landscape features are disappearing into a heavy fog, leaving the world changed when it lifts. Somehow, nanotechnology and nano-sized aliens are also involved. And monads!
[ Mind = blown ]
I believe I opened it with a quote from Gottfried Liebniz:
“…when we expect that there will be daylight tomorrow, we do so empirically, because it has always happened so up to the present time.”
I was obsessed with the mysticism inherent in some of Liebniz’s thoughts at that time, although I’m not sure I knew what to do with it. I was also reading Pynchon. Now that you have me chatting about it, maybe I will go back and edit that one.
RUCKER: What can you tell the world about yourself that you haven’t yet revealed? Can you give us a Ruckerpedia exclusive before you go? Maybe something about a sequel with a yet-to-be-announced title. . .hmm?
LUTZ: Yes! I can! I’m currently working on a sequel to Haunted, titled Getting On With It, which follows the continuing misadventures of the McTutcheon sisters. Readers had asked to know more and I was not initially planning to continue but once the question was asked my brain started poking me with ideas. I’m shooting for a December release. Fingers-crossed I don’t hit any snags, there!
[ You read/heard/whatever it here first folks – The Management ]
(From Amazon): Reggie Lutz lives on top of a mountain with a parrot who offers editing advice and a dog who offers comic relief. A radio broadcaster in the 90s and early 2000s, she has turned her attention to fiction, although she can sometimes be heard in a volunteer capacity at WRKC.
Personal Notes: I want to thank Reggie for being a guest here on Ruckerpedia. Previous to conducting this Q&A she and I had our first ever video chat in which I learned immediately that she’s exactly how I imagined her to be in all these years just reading her words: smart, witty, down-to-earth and funny, as no doubt evident from the chat above. She is one of those people I’m fortunate to have become associated with by a chance encounter. We first ‘virtually met’ at the Zoetrope Virtual Studio in autumn of 2008 within my online personal office there, which housed a congregation of new novel writers dedicated to work-shopping novel chapters. She had brought in to the group two works-in-progress titled “Monkeymen” and “Grunts” (working title), both of which were mentioned in the above chat. Since then we’ve been buddies on the Interwebs, but obviously have never met in person. Reggie’s from Northeast Pennsylvania (as an early transplant from New Jersey as well as Long Island, NY), while I’m from Indiana (which is now a totally unflattering thing to reveal these days). Both of us are noted music geeks so naturally we somehow wound up having a random but curious discussion about her encounter with one J. Robbins, formerly of beloved D.C. post-punk/post-hardcore band Jawbox (one of my absolute favorite bands of all time). At any rate, if you’re reading this then you should definitely check out her fiction work (available on Amazon). And if you happen to see her at a bookstore signing, make sure you stop by to say Hi.
So recently this happened. A fella named Trevor Strong created a song to help promote my buddy Reggie Lutz’s new story collection Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales (available now for pre-order on Amazon, will be released on Friday, May 1st). Check back here later on Thursday to see me join in the promotional fun when I post an exclusive Q&A chat with the lovely Ms. Lutz, indie author extraordinaire.