Things, Things, and More Things

–The website exists and looks awesome, thanks to Yeargin Marketing and Creative and Beth and Chris.

The bookpage at the printer now has a snazzy banner, again, thanks to Yeargin Marketing and Creative and Beth and Chris.

–The press releases that are going out in the mail are addressed and envelopes are stuffed.

–The review copies aren’t here yet, but I’m hoping they’ll get here on Thursday.

–My letters are written.

–I’m almost finished with the copyright application.

I got myself made an author on GoodReads.

–If the books come Thursday, I will have everything I can do for the books done on Friday, except for the party. I think I’ve found a good space. I’m just hoping they charge very little.

–And Kindle should be happening in the next couple of days. That has been an interesting learning experience.

–And then we just wait to see what happens.

I am up on!!!!!

It’s really happening! It’s up on Yes, there will be a Kindle edition in the next little bit.  Oh, god, I am so tickled. So very tickled.

Okay, but you maybe don’t want to order from Amazon. If you order directly from the printer, you can have 15% off if you use this code: SNLKXXFH

Now, if you don’t want 15% off or if you want to order other books from Amazon, feel free. I don’t really care. I just want you to buy my book and abide by the three guidelines:

1. If you like it, please tell someone.

2. If you don’t like it, please denounce it loudly in public.

3. If you’re a church who wants to burn my book, contact me about bulk discounts on orders over 25.

Oh, holy shit.

Holy fucking shit.

Update: Holy fucking shit again! My Amazon ranking this afternoon is #22,428. Which is pretty amazing.

4:02: Sorry. I know this is obnoxious, but please. This is so damn cool. #15,911.

Moderates v. Radicals

Josh Marshall writes:

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper today that the conflict over the mosque/cultural center project controversy was “not between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates of all the faith traditions and the radicals of all the faith traditions.”

I thought of that when I was reading Stephen Yeargin’s post. Three different people I talked to yesterday (and I probably only talked to five people yesterday) brought up how afraid the stuff going down in Murfreesboro made them. None of them are Muslim. All of them, though, know they don’t fit the definition of Christian that the anti-Mosque people seem to think should be the religion by which we guide our state.

And they all seemed to feel that, if Christian extremists in our state would cheer arson at a mosque site or commit arson at a mosque site or maybe shoot to frighten people at a mosque site, that the lesson they took from this was not “this is how we treat Muslims around here,” but “this is how we’d treat anyone we decide doesn’t fit our Christian community.”

Yeargin says, “Faith in small-town America is as deep as it is illogical at times. Even the protestant denominations have their own backbiting against one another, barely acknowledging their common bonds while focusing on their differences.”

It’s not just small-town America, but the point stands. It would behoove every Christian to think about which side of the fire they’d be on if these assholes had their way. Being Christian is not enough to protect you from what our Muslim neighbors are going through.

And I think it’s past time that folks know that.

Donal Logue Gets Younger and Younger

I am weary from being anxious. But I had a lovely dream that Donal Logue was getting drunk waiting for me at a bar, while I was getting it on with Sean Bean, after which I would go to the bar and get it on with Donal Logue. Make of that what you will.

But I was looking up Donal Logue, to make sure I spelled his name right, and I see IMDB has him born in 1966, while Wikipedia has him born in both 1969 and 1970. I feel like, if I hit refresh often enough, soon he will be younger than me.

I’m really terrified of the whole thing just being a fiasco. Not spending the afternoon getting it on with hot UK dudes, but the book. I know this terror is just a part of it, something to be moved through with as much grace as possible, but fuck me.

Ha, and I think that was the whole point of my dream!

Brief Things

1. I am refraining from hollering “It’s Matt’s font! It’s Matt’s font!” at the Butcher who is trying to sleep and who has no idea who Radley Balko is. But look! It’s Matt’s font! I knew that font when it was a baby.

2. Lovely. I really hope the FBI tracks that fucker down and makes him uncomfortable for a few minutes. My favorite part, though, and I mean this sincerely, is that it cuts through all this Ground Zero mosque rhetoric. Fuckers here don’t give a shit about New York City. They think it’s a fucked up place that lets fucked up things happen. Things “we” are not going to let happen. Yes, we’ve lost every cultural battle in the history of America except for Elvis, but damn it, we’re still gonna fight them.

3. And now they’re shooting. Seriously. It is past time for community leaders–politicians and ministers–to remind folks that Jesus said “Do unto others as you’d have done unto you.” You don’t want people firing guns at you when you go to church or setting the stuff left in your church parking lot on fire, don’t fucking do it to other people. If you can’t refrain from that, you are not a Christian and so should stop blathering on about this being a Christian nation. Even if this were a Christian nation, you do shit like this and support shit like this? YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN.

4. I have no sympathy for this position. Publishers sell books at different prices to different people and that’s out of the author’s control and the author just has to accept whatever royalties they get from whatever arrangement the publisher has made. So, why am I supposed to think it’s so bad if an author makes a deal with Amazon and Amazon makes pricing decisions that are beyond the author’s control and the author just has to accept whatever royalties she gets? How is that any different?

5. I told NM about my “Al-Abama” theory at lunch on Friday and she laughed this laugh she has where you know she’s been hit completely by surprised delight. You get her to laugh like that and you’re like “score!” Then she said, “Abama sounds almost like it could be a word, you know?” So, she rolled it over in her mind some and said “Oh, it’s just one letter away from ‘Obama’.” And that made me laugh, so I stole it for my post about my Al-Abama conspiracy. Granted, it would have been a more enjoyable funny if people hadn’t started terrorizing Muslim Murfreesborons over the weekend. Now it’s the kind of funny that leaves a coppery taste in your mouth.

But I suspect it was the Daily Show appearance that set all this off–you laugh at a bully and he will try to take you down.

So, I think it’s appropriate to show that the laughter is widespread.

What Do Granny White and Kate Batts Have In Common? Me Looking for Their Graves

Sometimes you just get an itch you have to scratch and this weekend my itch was the western part of Robertson County. I drove all down Catholic Church Road, though I did not find a Catholic Church. I did find the Scott graveyard, because they have a hand-painted sign that points you to it. And it’s tobacco time, so I found smoking barns and men out harvesting and, well, you’ll see.

This morning I was on the south side of Nashville doing a park, so I convinced the Butcher to take me to the grave of Granny White. She’s one of my ghosts this year. It’s cool to consider how she had her inn/tavern. If you’re coming up from the south, there’s like a wall of hills and just these little ways of snaking through and even now, it’s kind of freaky to be winding around them. And then, bam, just as you’re like, I can’t possibly do this any more, there would have been her house. And I think there’s pretty much a house right there on the spot where her house would have been. I hope they excavated the land before they built the house.

Anyway, my purpose for being up in Robertson County was to try to find the Glen Raven plantation. I have been trying to get a feel for how the Washingtons had their homes arranged. I know Washington Hall burnt down at some point, and Wessington is still there. But I didn’t know if Glen Raven still was. So, I didn’t find it yesterday, in part because I turned on 49 instead of on Maxey Road. So, I came home to look at Google Maps to see what I’d done wrong and I notice that there’s a Batts Cemetery in Cedar Hill.

This blew my mind, because, as you may remember, in early iterations of the Bell Witch legend, it was said that the Bell Witch was “Kate Batts,” an old lady unhappy with how a slave deal had gone down with Mr. Bell and so cursed him. Well, fuck me, Martha, as the saying goes. I had to go check this out, right?

So, I drive over there and I still turn too soon and miss motherfucking Maxey Road but by now, I know where I am when I’m lost, so I get to Batts Cemetery no problem. I look at all the graves. They are all Battses and all of the right era. But none are named “Kate.” But I do notice something interesting. The next road north is “Harding.” And one of the Batts girls married a Harding who is in that cemetery. Now, it’s clear from the shape the Batts cemetery is in that the Battses weren’t hurting for money. But throw a Harding in… Well, if he’s one of our Hardings (of the Belle Meade Mansion), that’s a lot of money and power that the Battses were married into.

Now, the Bell Witch incident supposedly started around 1820, but the first written account was almost seventy years later. It’d be interesting to know what might have been going on with the Bells and the Battses in the 1880s, you know?

Anyhow, I’m not convinced that Kate Batts existed, but there were for sure Battses in the area.

So, I drive down from there, down Old Washington Road and I do find the front gates to Washington Hall (just off Old Washington, south of Cedar Hill, on Log Cabin Road), and down the road, Wessyngton. So, now, I’m thinking, the third house has to be a reasonable distance to travel by carriage. It’s got to be around here someplace. So, I go past Wessyngton and it’s up on a hill, When you get to the bottom of the hill, you can either turn left onto Flewellyn or keep going around the bottom of the property. I crossed a creek and then there was a tiny road (Carr Road) that went steep up to the right.

I went up it. It was the kind of awesomely spooky road you beg Tennessee to shoot you every once in a while–narrow with trees canopied in great arches over it and nothing, for a long time, but you and fields of cows, cows, who, I might mention, had figured out that the barbed wire fence was not that tight. So, when we came upon them, they were all out in the road, but then they just pushed their way through the fence and got back in the field. They didn’t even mind the dog barking at them. It was awesome.

And where should Carr Road end but Glen Raven road? And what is there, right on the other side of the creek but what I can only assume is Glen Raven. I couldn’t see the house from the road, but the land is huge and it looked to even have a farm store and there were two houses that had these kind of octagonal silver roofs, I guess for… I don’t know. They looked too nice to be for sharecroppers.

Anyway, it was awesome. Those Washingtons have got to have a hell of a cemetery some place. I looked for one, but I didn’t find it.

My Middle Name is ‘Fret’

It’s probably a good thing the Butcher is taking the computer to go do fantasy football stuff because otherwise, I would be on it all afternoon all “Ooh, is this happening yet?” “Oh, am I up on Amazon yet?”

The Butcher went with me to a park that I think was Mildred Shute, but it had no sign, so I don’t know. The neighborhood is sketchy enough that I was glad to have someone with me. But then we went on down to see where Granny White was buried and that was really cool. I’ll have pictures later. There are a ton of Haslam signs all over town.

That can’t be a good sign, so to speak.

If I ever get a book contract, the good thing is that I will have already gone through this ridiculousness once.

BooOOOOooooK Things

So, the second proof came. I looked at it only long enough to verify that it contained the right innards and then I ordered my review copies. They have to go out next week or the beginning of the week after at the latest. So, mistakes. There may be some. But it’s too late to fret about that crap.

So, yes, hypothetically, you could order the book right now if you wanted to. You’ll probably soon see it up at Amazon, for instance. But I’m hoping you wait until next week, when I’ll give you a link to order it directly from the printer and a coupon code to get 15% off. If, for some reason, Amazon wants to give you a better discount than that, you should go for it. But I don’t know if they will. Probably not.

We’ll also be getting the Kindle version up in the next little bit. I’ll let you know when that happens.

But things are slowly trickling out in preparation for the October launch. So, yes, we’ll still have a story a night here in October. They’ll be rough drafts of the stories in the book (or half of them. The other half were first published here last year.) But please, feel free to buy the book as early as it’s available (which should be next week).

I just have three requests.

1. If you like it, tell someone. I don’t have any marketing money, so I’m depending on your word of mouth.

2. If you don’t like it, please, give your copy to someone, even if it’s only so that the two of you can complain together about how terrible it is. Loudly, and in public. Please, if you hate it, complain loudly in public about it and call it evil. That’s all I’m asking. You don’t have to like it, but if you hate it, please publicly call it evil. Say that it glorifies Satan or something.

3. My goal is to sell 333 copies. If you are a church group looking to burn my book because it is evil and glorifies Satan, if you are willing to hold up my book in front of television cameras and denounce it, I will give you a 50% discount on bulk purchases of my book to burn. It’s worth it to me to meet my sales goal.

Okay, that’s everything. Whew, this is really happening. I’m making time this weekend to address envelopes for press releases.

In Which I Roll My Eyes

Listen, an income tax might be the most unpopular thing in Tennessee since allowing babies to butter moldy bread with sharp knives, but that doesn’t mean it’s a stupid idea. There are good reasons for enacting one and very good reasons for not enacting one (I know that may seem surprising, coming from me, but I actually do think that the chances of the state legislature enacting an income tax and keeping the sales tax near 10% is probably pretty damn likely. I don’t trust them not to.).

But that doesn’t mean it’s a stupid idea.  Just politically unpopular.

So, it really makes me roll my eyes to see Democrats try to make political hay out of opposing the income tax.

I know I’m just burnt out, but I’m so damn tired of everything the political parties in this state do being so damn… political. I mean, seriously, it’s like folks have forgotten that this is supposed to be about doing what’s best for the state, not about whose team wins, no matter what the tactics.

Still No Justice for Henry Granju

Every day, every single day, at least one person comes to this blog looking because of a “Henry Granju” search. And I have not written about him prolifically, as you know, if you read me. People still care.

I mention that because I can’t help but suspect that the authorities involved in this case think that, if they just can keep it out of the news, out of the public discussion, that people will forget.

I would point out that some folks will not be able to forget.

I want to make two points.

One, parents send their young adult children to Knoxville every year. A number of those young adult children will do things so heartbreakingly stupid that it will shake their families to the core. If they are lucky, they will find their way back from that. If they are not, they won’t. Knoxville has a brewing PR disaster on its hands if parents don’t feel that they can count on the authorities to do their jobs.

Two, the police have the job of determining if a crime has been committed and then investigating that crime. It is up to the DA to decide whether there’s a strong enough case to prove a crime has been committed in a court of law. It is not the job of the police to walk into a crime scene and decide “well, he’s just a junkie; that’s never going to court” or “he brought this on himself, so let’s move on to victims who matter.” If they come upon evidence of a crime, they’re supposed to investigate that crime.

If that’s not happening in Knoxville, that’s a problem for everyone in Knoxville. Police who don’t follow proper procedure because they’ve decided you’re not worth it don’t keep that kind of attitude relegated to just the drug addicts. Do the drunken rape victims get their full attention or are they not worth it? If you drove through the wrong part of town in too nice a car and you got carjacked, is that too stupid to warrant justice?

The police deciding that some victims just aren’t worth the bother should scare the shit out of all of us.

Why the Dog Was Rolling Over

One of the Butcher’s friends from back in the day stopped by with her adorable son. And he played and played and played with that dog. They had great tugs-o-war. They ran around. She sat for him and kind of fetched for him. And she rolled over for me, when she knew he was watching.

And then he sat on our couch, his little legs dangling over the side, with a Hot Pocket and a glass of milk and it just… it just made me happy. I wish we had little kids over all the time. They just laugh in this big, open way.

Last night I had yet another “I’m about to give birth/I’m giving birth” dreams. I assume because of the book. In this one, I was about to give birth and two guys I only know from the internet were going to be my midwives. So, I had to go to the airport to get them. Only, since I don’t know them in real life, I didn’t quite know what they looked like. So, it had the same kind of feeling as the “I have to take a test in a class I haven’t gone to all semester and I don’t know where the classroom is” dream, that kind of urgent panic, like you’re going to miss the test, only, in this case, if I couldn’t find the guys, I was going to have to give birth alone, and now, obviously, in the airport.

What that had to do with the little kid visitor, I’m not sure. But it’s too late now, I’m not going back and splitting them into two posts.

My anxiety levels are off the charts. Whew, seriously, I am about the least fun person to be around at the moment.

In Tennessee, We Have Muslims Named ‘Cami’

This is what I was trying to get at here. Yes, we have a bunch of dumbasses doing dumbass crap. But we also have Tennesseans like Cami and Ben Lemming. So, why not, when you see something like this, be proud to be a Tennessean like those folks, instead of being embarrassed to be a Tennessean like the scary internet conspiracy woman?

Lump me in with Ben and Cami, that’s fine.

Voodoo Dolls v. Poppets

I want to mull this over some more, but dang, I love this post. It’s not directly about a subject near and dear to my heart, but it gets at it in a round-about way. It seems to me that there is a kind of American vernacular magic, a pool of magical knowledge you kind of pick up just by living in the culture. Mostly these are superstitions–don’t step on a crack, Friday the 13th is unlucky, don’t walk under a ladder, a dropped fork means company’s coming. But some of this vernacular magical knowledge is a little more sophisticated–you can make a deal with the devil at a crossroads, you can use a doll to curse people, etc.

Now, I want to call this American vernacular magic, because it’s shared by a lot of us (and is available, through our cultural memes, to be shared by almost all of us). Even if we don’t believe in it, we know of it. But, since we, in general, don’t consider ourselves to be a magical people, we don’t really know a whole lot about where these beliefs come from or why we have them or why they might be thought to work.

It’s like finding a bunch of stuff in a distant relative’s attic after she’s dead. You know it was important enough for her to keep, some of it may resonate with you, but you don’t know really what it means or where it came from.

Folk magic, I would say, is slightly different than that. It’s like going into that distant relative’s attic with her and having her explain things to you and show you how to use them.

You can see how there’s a lot of overlap between vernacular magic and folk magic, but also that there’s some important distinctions–the main being that you know folk magic comes from someplace and that there’s a lot to it, more than you might ever know.

And here’s where I think a lot of American white folks get into trouble–we aren’t aware that we have folk magics, that we have traditions–like making poppets or tying knots or burying witch bottles–so when we encounter vernacular magic, we ascribe it to non-white folks. Oh, it must be those voodoo practitioners who use dolls to curse! Not our people, not us.

And it’s complicated, of course, because American folk magic is like a large lake and currents in the lake bring different practices to different folk traditions. So, like, for instance, with voodoo dolls–those poppets clearly originated with European folk magic. And, yes, by now, I’m sure the use of voodoo dolls by voodoo practitioners in New Orleans is wide-spread. But not because they’re a part of the voodoo tradition, but because they’ve come in on a European current within American folk magic.

Or because American vernacular magic attributed magical dolls to voodoo and that got repeated enough that New Orleans-style voodoo practitioners took up doll-magic to see what the fuss was about and decided they liked it.

Or both.

Anyway, I think it’s useful to remember that, while religion and magic hold hands, they aren’t the same thing.

Plus, the more I think about it “vernacular” might not be the right word. But I don’t have a better one for it, yet. Ha. But I think it applies to voodoo as well. There’s a difference between Voodoo as a spiritual practice (in New Orleans or in Haiti or in other places) and “voodoo” in the vernacular magic realm, where it only resembles how real people practice in fun-house ways. (Which is not to say that there’s not leaking back and forth–that vernacular magic ideas become real practices and that real practices can become part of the vernacular magic imagination.)

But I’m not sure quite how I want to get at that space. Or what I want to call it. I just know that it’s there.

Haters Gonna Hate

I realize that, even though many cute things have been happening with the cats, that I have not said much about them because I am still bummed about the disappearance and probable death of the tiny cat, who had a real name, which I guess I can tell you now. Stella. Her name was Stella. And she was always weird as hell and spent much of her life with no butt hair and then one day she darted out the front door and she never came back. And it’s sad, but she had a good, full, weird life, so I really hope she’s having a good, full, weird death or is living out in the wilds of Davidson County with an old moonshiner. You just never know.

Anyway, yes, even the animals have pseudonyms.


So, the new kitty. Bless her heart, she has a real name, too–Pumpkin. But the Butcher still calls her new kitty and when I talk to her, because it is usually right after or during a time when she’s going all “squeak, squeak,” I’ve taken to calling her “Squeaky.” She’s a cat of many nicknames, but no real good name that suits her–though I think “Squeaky” does. But can you change a cat’s name mid-stream? Does it matter? I call the orange cat “Bobby” and the Butcher calls him “Buddy” and the nephews call him “Garfield” and he doesn’t seem to mind.

The new kitty will answer to anything, with a squeak.

But the thing that cracks me up about her is that she’s got two modes of locomotion–the mad scramble, which is as you’d think it is, with usually a thud as she slides into something at the end, and the “haters gonna hate” strut. I don’t know if it’s just because she has such stubby legs, so she has to kind of stick them way out in front of her before setting them down, just to make sure they still can reach the ground from the height of her body or what, but I have never known a cat to strut around like she does, as her primary means of locomotion.

I mean, most cats are kind of sneaky. They pour into a space like milk over your cereal. Or they pounce out of nowhere.

Not the squeaky kitty. She’s got to strut in like she’s the head of her own parade.

Ha, like she’s been watching the dog for pointers.

An Alternate History of the Mound Builders

So, as I have finished reading Archaeological Expeditions of the Peabody Museum in Middle Tennessee, 1877-1884 and I have learned that the basic history of the mound builders goes thusly:

Some folks move in and build huge mounds in the western part of Middle Tennessee. Some other folks move in in the eastern parts and they build little towns. Then it appears that big chief-doms arise. And then they fade and Middle Tennessee is more organized around small villages and towns. People put their dead in stone boxes and pile their dead in mounds. Except the babies, which they stick under the floors. Very sad.

And then, weirdly, everyone disappears from the area.

Perhaps because of some kind of food shortage. Or alien abduction. Or they stop making those cool duck bowls and people get depressed about it and leave. Or a Bigfoot moves into the area and yells so loud all the time that no one can get any sleep so they all die and the Bigfoot buries them in their mounds (seriously, the folks here right before we got here had earplugs. For what? Neighbors who fuck too loudly? I don’t know. I will have to find a decorous way to ask an archaeologist.)?

No, no, my friends, I think it’s clear what the answer is: they all wrote books and became such insecure balls of uptight worry about it that when they all thought no one was looking, they moved away and went to live with their Grandmas under assumed names.

My Mind is Going in About Eight Directions. I’m Guessing Eight. I Don’t Know.

1. Okay a new proof copy is ordered and on its way. I told Samantha that I just can’t look at that fucker any more. There might still be errors but folks, I can’t see them.

2. I think I’m overthinking this whole “where to have some kind of reading” thing but let me tell you, it is stressing me right the fuck out. Free and creepy. This is a big city. How is that so hard to come by?

3. Yes, every day is just “Go see what they’re saying at Coates’s” day.


5. I had no idea there was a reason behind the phrase “Democrat x” like “Democrat congressman” or “Democrat lobbyist“. I honestly thought folks did that just to be annoying. Sincerely, if you’re going to come up with a slur, it needs to have meaning to the people it’s used against. Otherwise, they just think you’re an idiot, not that you’re trying to insult them.

6. So, I just learned that the mound-builders in Tennessee did not live in round huts but probably lived in square huts that may have been open on the sides at the corners. Which, you know, makes sense. It’s fucking hot in Tennessee. You want some way to get a breeze.

7. The Mound Builders liked to make bowls shaped like ducks. And really, who can blame them? I kind of want all my bowls to be shaped like ducks, now that I have seen them.

8. And they liked things with this swirly.

9. And you can really tell how much Archaeology has changed over the past 150 years. Back in the day it was just page after page of “We sent the skull back to the museum.” or “We sent the bones back the the museum.” and now it’s all “The individual was left in his grave.”

Adventures in Self-Publishing or Adventures in Independent Publishing

Ha, you know, when I first started doing this, I thought that people who didn’t call it “self-publishing” but called it “independent publishing” were just being wankers, for lack of a better term, about not wanting to be seen as self-published.

But I have to tell you, I do, at this point, feel like calling what I’m doing “self-publishing” gives the wrong impression–like I could have somehow made this whole product myself and had it turn out just like it has. That is an enormous falsity. I am, in fact, independently publishing this. I am doing my part–creating content, project managing, and marketing–and that’s a big chunk.

But I really depended on the skills of other folks to pull this together.

And I think that’s important to stress. It may be that you are the kind of person who has mad skills in every area. Maybe you like the book cover templates they provide just fine and you can copy edit yourself and typeset passably well and market yourself. In that case, I think you can truly self-publish.

But I am not that person. So, I had to be able to pull together a team of folks who could do that stuff. In that regard, living in Nashville has been a tremendous asset, because we have such a large creative community that leans geeky who are excited about the creative stuff people in town are up to and willing to help. I can’t speak for other places, but damn, I feel like that’s a crucial component to my success.

Let’s just take this Kindle nonsense. Last week, I tried to upload the PDF to Kindle and it came out looking… well… bad. Bad is too mild a word, but bad. And it was the kind of bad that scared me not just in this realm, but had reverberations into my professional life (which we will not talk about, except to say that, whoa, are a lot of places relying on magic to fix this or what?).

I was, of course, relying on magic. “Upload PDF”—magic–“Something Kindle readers can use without turning to their significant others and saying ‘Honey, I think a pirate has hacked my Kindle and is trying to send me a very lengthy ransom note. Something about ghosts. And Nashville. Do you know anyone in Nashville?'”

This is really the difference between ceremonial magicians and kitchen witches. A ceremonial magician would have been all “Draw an elaborate symbol passed down from Solomon himself with interlocking circles and triangles and words in dead languages written with letters you don’t even recognize”–“upload PDF”–magic–“Pirate ransom note about ghosts.”

Ha, that’s a little pagan humor there for you. Please don’t beat me up, ceremonial magicians. I don’t even know if you draw elaborate symbols passed down from Solomon himself. I just assumed you did because who else has the time? Ooo, yeah, I said it! (Please don’t turn my cat into a frog. I have a great respect for ceremonial magicians. I just also like to talk a lot of smack.)

Anyway, so I was all “What am I doing wrong?” to Samantha, who took a look at it and got some help from this dude she knows and long story short, it is not magic. It’s kind of a pain in the butt.

I mean, it still looks like magic from my end,  because I am just sitting here befuddled. But it is not.

Adobe even has directions for how to go from PDF to Kindle’s MOBI format, which you might use, if you ever need to do this.

Though, I think we should all appreciate how close “Get this open source program” is to “magic” for geeks.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

If You Need Me

I’ll be on the couch reading Archaeological Expeditions of the Peabody Museum in Middle Tennessee, 1877-1884. I’ll let you know what awesome stuff I find.

Updated: Christ almighty, reading about the babies buried under the floors of the houses just about broke my heart. I know we don’t know what that meant. Maybe it was a way for them to get back up in the women and retry. Maybe they weren’t considered real people yet, so they didn’t go in the mounds. Who knows?

But damn, it’s hard to not succumb to the temptation to imagine those parents wanting those children right there with them.

The Voices

Weirdly, this reminds me a little of Stephen King.

I just sit there in my cabin in the woods, and I wait for the voices. And if they say, “Sleep,” then I sleep. And if they say “Run” I do a few miles. And when they “Story,” I sit at the lap-top, until I tire them out with questions.

Writers are big on instructing their pupils on time and schedule–four hours a day, at a set time seems to be the general rule. But what I know, and what’s been confirmed to me here, is I’ve never been able to make myself do much of anything. It really doesn’t feel up to me and I am afraid, because I don’t know what’s coming or when it will arrive.

A Sign My Mom is Ready to Retire

I called my dad just now to see what he wanted last night, when I was busy watching True Blood and seeing who was going to shit themselves first, me or the dog (aren’t you glad you come here at lunchtime? God.). Anyway, so I call my dad back and he does not answer. I roll to voicemail.

It’s my mom’s voice, saying in the most disgusted, jealous tone–“Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail of [my dad]. He can’t come to the phone right now because he’s busy doing absolutely nothing.”

Bwah ha ha ha ha.

I swear, as my mom gets older, she’s getting this snarky streak that kind of tickles me.

Will Book Publishing Become More Regionalized?

Over at The Gods are Bored, there’s a guest post from Margot Berwin talking about her debut novel. It sounds really interesting. But we are not talking about books! No, we are talking about publishing.  Ha ha ha.

Anyway, she has some suggestions about how to get published:

1.      Get published in smaller venues first. I went right for the big novel but I might have gotten published sooner if I’d had some smaller pieces out there. Getting published in journals or magazines, literary or otherwise, online or off, lets editors and agents know that you have an audience and that someone else believed in you enough to publish you. They love this.
2.      I really hate this one but it works. If at all possible, get an MFA. While it’s true that no one can teach you to write, editors use this degree as a weeding out process. They’ll say they don’t, but they do. They get so many manuscripts; they have to separate them out in some way, and having an agent plus an MFA and a few published short stories, really helps. On another note, people in MFA programs become very close. They share information. Three people in my class of twelve have the same agent and two are being published at Random House. It’s a place for serious networking that actually works.
3.      Go to readings. Read your work at readings. Network at readings. Being on the shy side, I never read out-loud. I was the only person in my class who skipped the reading portion of the MFA graduation. When I finally got published and Random House called me to tell me they were sending me on an 18-city book tour, I acted excited and then immediately got a prescription for beta-blockers. It was terrifying and I wish I’d practiced all along. And besides, I met my agent at a reading for Amy Hempel and he’s since signed two of my MFA classmates.

I want to walk a tricky rope here because I want to say that I believe that what Berwin is saying is true. I also want to say that, if it is true, it’s really depressing. About the only thing available to all writers, regardless of local, is the first one. You can, indeed, submit your writing places.

But getting an MFA? In this economy? With book publishing being where it is? That’s a lot of debt to acquire without a guarantee of a job or a book contract (even if it does make a book contract much more likely). And what about people who can’t just pick up their lives and move to a place that offers MFAs? How do they get access to networks and such?

Or going to readings? What if you don’t live in a place that has book readings?

I mean, in some ways, a good chunk of her advice can be summed up in “live in New York City.” Which, again, is fine and is probably true.

But it makes me wonder, as publishing shakes out how it will, will it become more regionalized? I mean, it’s funny, if you think about it. If you or I write a book about Nashville, that’s considered regional and not having a very big market, of interest to people only in Nashville and the surrounding areas. But if someone writes a book set in New York City, it is 75% of the time not considered a regional book (though it is interesting to think about the lines that demarcate a “regional” NYC book from one that isn’t. Outside the scope of my point, but I’m trying hard to not get distracted by it.), but a book that has wide appeal.

It makes sense. No one lives in a place and constantly thinks “oh, how quaint and unique!” Even if you do think those things at first, eventually, it just becomes the place you live. And the experiences you have there start to feel like universal experiences. So, of course, you think about books about the place you live as being kind of universal.

I think these things are understandable. But as we break down into a more boutique world, I wonder if we’ll see the rise of more regional publishing.

I don’t know. Just something I wonder about. If folks perceive that their stories about places other than NYC are going to be at a disadvantage with NYC publishers, will they look for other options? Will they make other options?

I don’t know. But I’m watching.