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Welcome to the blog and site of Iowa Author Buzz Malone. I always enjoy hearing from readers. Please leave comments and send me emails to let me know what you think. Your opinions matter more than you might think. Your words inspire me more than you could ever know. To find out more about my writing and books, please click above on the book titles or email me at buzzdmalone@gmail.com

If you are looking for my Union Leader Blog, please go to http://theunionleader.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Independent Authors are Ruining Literature

Timothy Hurley, plotting to ruin the publishing industry.
"I wonder what I can do to piss Buzz off today?"
You'd think that a successful and retired doctor like my friend Timothy Hurley would be content to sit in his easy chair and write his hilarious, whacky short stories wouldn't you? Well, he's not. Instead, he seemingly spends the bulk of his time scanning the internet and sending me links to things that, by design, ruffle my feathers.

Doc Hurley's Site
Timothy Hurley's Amazon Page

"I'll get you, Timothy Hurley! You son of a..."
As it turns out, it wasn't the Heidi Loney article entitled "Why the Bad Wrap, Indies?" that got beneath my skin. But rather, it was a comment that was posted to it...and it appears to have been posted by another independent author...

"Well...I never! Of all the nerve of these indie authors!"
...out of context it reads like this...
"It’s rather like someone off the street, with no experience or education in the area, coming to your place of employment, for which you went to school to get a degree, and insisting that they do YOUR JOB–and worse, sometimes getting paid YOUR SALARY for it."

"I don't understand. What's "out of context" mean again?"

Yes, I totally took that out of context because she was referring to authors who expend a considerable amount of energy into honing their craft vs. the ones who don't. But I thought that it was a beautifully framed synopsis of every writer and agent and publisher and reviewer who abhors the independent author movement. In fact, I was inspired to write a comment of my own...

"This is going right up on the fridge! It's beautiful. Another Doc Hurley Original!"
And the beat goes on. Writing is an artistic expression of one’s self. Some artists choose to hone their skills and paint beautiful portraits of perfection. Others opt to experiment or toss globs of paint from fifty feet away onto a canvas whilst riding a tilt-o'-whirl. The value of either is debatable, subjective, and will always be up for interpretation by everyone who chooses to lend their critique.

"I'm writing and publishing this book - because I can!"
There are a lot of independent authors today that I would rather not read. There are a lot of books in bookstores that I would rather not read. However, I strongly encourage everyone and anyone who has a story in their heart, to write the thing. Print it. Self-publish it. Hone it to polished perfection or not. It’s your story. They’re your words. It’s your book. People will love it or hate it either way. Anyone who has read much classic literature in first edition form would find it difficult to argue that the number of errors and typos detracted from the ultimate importance of the work.
"In 1930, they called me a pig. Now I'm the feature piece in a museum collection."

I have come to view independent authors as the folk artists of the modern era. Folk art isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always refined. It’s an expression. To assign a ‘value’ to one expression above another based on education or training or industry acceptance is pretentious at best, and reinforces the need for alternative publishing mechanisms. Emerging forms of expression, or opportunities for the masses to engage in expression have never been embraced by the status quo or the intellectual elite from within their own fields. Much to their chagrin however, and beyond the grasp of their (the elite) understanding, some people like it.

"What's mine is mine. What's yours is mine. If I'm not getting enough then it must be your fault."
 If their expressions go on to get paid “your salary” for their work, then it is only because people enjoy and appreciate it. It isn’t “your salary” if they are being compensated for their writing. It never was. If your major concern as a traditionally published author is about “your salary” and the nuisance of lesser beings cutting into “your” market share, then perhaps you’d be better suited for Wall Street than for writing, because most of us, independent or otherwise, are content to keep writing regardless of the level of compensation. It is, after all, about the love of the thing, and anyone who loves the thing enough to write deserves to hold a book with their name on it.

"Thank God I didn't write a book while I was alive. It would have been awful. Every publisher in Philadelphia would've hated it."
Beyond leaving comments on the web, I do the unthinkable. When I speak to book clubs or groups or interested individuals, I ALWAYS encourage them to write AND publish their work. I tell them that is accessible and easy and virtually cost free. I tell them that somewhere, someday, someone will want to read what they have written, and someone will enjoy and appreciate it. I can't pass through a cemetery without imagining how many incredible and forgotten stories are buried beneath those chunks of granite. How many literary classics and autobiographies were lost due to the suppression of their own contemporary elite?

"Wow. This is full of typos and mistakes and it is still awesome!"
Even when people tell me they aren't very good writers I encourage them to do it. I ask them if they wouldn't enjoy reading something written by their grandparents or great-grandparents? "Of course," they answer, "who wouldn't?!" Naturally. So, like I said, somewhere, someday, someone at least, will definitely want to read your words. You have a story. Everyone does.

How to ruin the literary establishment with ten bucks or less, a new book coming soon by Buzz Malone?
And then, in the most horrible disrespect to the system and the industry and, dare I say, the respected craft itself, I tell them that from start to finish, they could be holding a paperback in their hands that they have written, for less than ten bucks. And if that isn't bad enough, I offer to help them in any way, free of charge.

"My crap is extraordinary due to my pedigree!"
You can't claim to love the written word while simultaneously discouraging people to write. Just like you can't assign values to human expressions. No one has that right (except for possibly Ebay). Like everything else, you can choose to love or hate something, or to read it or not to.

So many choices!
The industry (publishers, agents, editors, distributors, reviewers, etc.) is scrambling to figure out how to beat back the tsunami wave of independent authors. They despise the fact that anyone can publish a book these days without them all getting a cut of the profits. With no control of the number of books being produced, it's becoming more and more difficult for them to control what we read.

"We can write whatever crap we want to!"
They claim to be beside themselves with fret and worry about so much bad, "unprofessional" writing getting into the hands of readers. But really, of course, it's about control, and you guessed it... money. But like I said before, it's hard to imagine how you can claim to genuinely love literature and not also want to see a lot more of it, with more authors out there encouraging more people to read. For my part, I am excited about the future. So many future classics are being created right now by so many people who would've never even attempted it before.

"Mmmm. Isn't that delicious?"
The people finally have an open forum to create and produce, and readers have choices that go beyond what was being spoon fed to them at the Wal-Marts by New York. Successful writing makes people feel something. I invite everyone to join me in becoming a successful writer today. Write something. Publish something. Sell your books (or give them away) outside the Wal-Mart. It's guaranteed to piss somebody off.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Something About a Mule...and an Angel

Williamson, Iowa Main Street
Williamson, Iowa is one of the tiniest towns in Southern Iowa. In the 1930's it was a coal mining boom town. When the coal mines closed, they even moved most of the houses out of Williamson. It has since continued to shrink in size from several thousand inhabitants to less than 200 today.

They would've looked a lot like this, only dirtier, I'm a guessin'
Williamson wasn't the sort of place that most people would've ever visited because there wasn't much to see or do there. I probably wouldn't know much about it myself, except my Dad's childhood neighbor and lifelong best friend lived in the town at the end of a an old gravel road. We went there all the time and I called the man my uncle.

"Watch the hands, pal."

I don't remember it of course, but my uncle's wife had a sister who lived just up the road in Williamson. And that sister had a little baby girl who was born just four months after I was. The two mothers would see one another from time to time and they'd all compare the babies. One was small and beautiful and perfect and they named her Lorri. The other one had a giant head that was three sizes too big for his body, and he weighed ninety pounds at birth, and as if all that wasn't bad enough, they named the poor little bastard Buzz. 

Lorri, if she were alive in the Depression era and wore dresses as a child instead of her signature bibs (bibs, by the way, that being children of the 1970's and having particularly cruel parents, were probably plaid AND corduroy).
My uncle had a boy about my age too, and when we got a little older, we'd walk the three blocks to the thriving metropolis (a tiny grocery store at the time and a tavern) to buy some candy, or visit his grandparent's house on the other side of town (five blocks total). On our way, Lorri would stand out by the road and ask us where we were going. My "cousin" always told me to ignore her (his real cousin), but I'd watch her over my shoulder anyways. She wasn't allowed to leave the yard, I guess.

She still gets me to do stuff for her with this look.
When we didn't answer her, she'd get upset. Sometimes she'd skulk away...

And if I don't do it, then I get this look.
...And other times, she'd get mad and yell stuff at us, or chuck a rock our way, or throw a mud pie (when in season, of course). 

An adventurous spirit, it didn't take Lorri very long to discover that while being permanently grounded to her own yard alone, if she took her father's hunting mule with her, she was (inexplicably) allowed to go anywhere. Oddly enough, they must've reckoned that she wouldn't get into any trouble with that old mule in tow to protect her.

If it were up to Lorri, the mule would be INSIDE the house
After that, any time we'd go to Williamson, we could see her riding that mule. She rode that mule everywhere and her dad complained relentlessly about wearing out the mule's feet on the pavement because she loved to hear the sound of his hooves clickety clacking down the road. When she wasn't riding the mule, she was selling mule rides to other kids for a quarter a piece (or on credit if you couldn't raise the funds).

From that first time we walked by her house when we were all still very small, I've always turned my head to look at her again. Through the years, each and every time I saw her, she turned my head and took my breath away.

It must have looked a lot like these two, except I was seldom lucky enough to get this close. Until one day, a miracle happened and she simply stopped running from me.

Which brings us to today, forty years to the day after my angel was born (a few short months after I came into this world). If anything was ever meant to be, it was we two together, planting flowers and vegetables and caring for mules and horses on a little piece of ground just outside of a town that few people have ever heard of before called Williamson (she still loves the clickety clacking sound of their hooves).

And while she might have turned forty years old today, to a part of me, she will always be that same little girl, standing in the yard chucking rocks, or riding her mule down the only stretch of pavement in town.

And every day with her has been a blessing. The world is full of miracles when she is with me and she has reminded me that the greatest things in life are the simplest. From sunsets to hummingbirds and the awestruck surprise of watching something grow from the earth that you have planted together, every day with Lorri is full of miracles.

Looking back, I have come to believe that some angel had been watching me come into this world. She knew that I'd be a handful, and that I'd need some taking care of and guidance and watching over (sort of a special needs soul, if you will). It was too much of a chore to take care of me from way up there and from so far away, so she followed me here instead.

And I met up with her, my angel, in a tiny little town that nobody ever heard of before called Williamson. And she was, to me, the most amazing and beautiful angel that I had ever seen. And I can't wait to spend every day of the next forty years of our lives together, because with her, every day remains a miracle.

Happy 40th Birthday Lorri!



Friday, May 10, 2013

Small Miracles of a Writer's World

"WHEN I WROTE the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, without a razor blade."
Henry David Thoreau once said that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." When applied to private economies in the modern era and perceptions of failure and success, it holds equally as true today as when it was first written.

What on earth will the neighbors think?
The crushing weight of those perceptions of failure and success guide our lives. At times, it causes us to zig when we should have zagged. It is the crushing burden of shame and embarrassment that causes a woman to hide in her cubicle and quietly answer the calls from creditors, praying her co-workers won't hear.  Quiet Desperation.

They were gonna get it anyways...somehow.
Whether you're a couple earning $200k a year and wondering how you're going to make the boat payment, worried about what the other people on the lake will say when the repo guys show up, or a struggling single mother wondering how on earth you're going to put food on the table next week... the quiet desperation remains a truth for so many of us. Always, it seems, it is out there, waiting in good times and in bad, a crisis away from destroying our lives.

You will sit there until you stop wanting to be a writer!
With so much pressure to "succeed" and quiet desperation being the norm, it seems all the more abnormal when someone willingly and consciously decides to pursue a passion like writing or art, where monetary rewards are so rare as to seem virtually non-existent, or akin to having won the lottery.  

"He said he wants to be a writer!"
When you know you're a writer, you might even keep it bottled up inside, not telling anyone about it. Eventually, you have to "come out" of the writer's closet. When you do, there will be no shortage of people laughing at you. They're all struggling. Quiet desperation consumes their lives. They can't imagine what on earth would EVER cause someone to pursue such a foolish endeavor because in their world, time is money. Laziness? Stupidity? Insanity?

It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Once you've made that leap of faith and followed your heart, it's extremely freeing. You begin to view the world differently, and concepts of failure and success begin to change. That doesn't mean however, that you don't land in a wet spot every now and again, or all the time...sometimes face first. But, when your perceptions change, tiny victories will seem like major miracles. Savor those. There aren't very many.

"This Buzz Malone fellow writes rubbish. I shall buy his new book so I can say it is rubbish as well, I think."
For me, it remains a miracle each and every time that someone reads one of my books. From Silence of Centerville, to my earlier, local historical novellas, it is such an incredible experience when people approach me on the street and talk about having read something I have written. What an amazing gift to receive!

"We've been looking for you, Mr. Malone."
Which brings me to yet another small miracle. Much to the chagrin of angry creditors and government agencies who'd like to garnish the garments right off my back... I have a grand total of $9.64 in my checking account. Just to be clear, there is no savings account.

Insert embarrassed remark from my mother here, saying, "oh, Buzz. Why did you have to tell them that? What will people think?"

Me: "Umm, I dunno. That I'm a broke writer."

Me on my way to town. Yes. I am that cute. Really...if that puppy were a 40 year old fat man.
Anyhow, I ran into town yesterday. I needed $30 pretty badly so I stopped by the little coffee shop where I sell my books to settle up. The owner disappeared into the backroom and came out with a check. "39," she said, handing me the envelope with the check inside of it. I celebrated all the way to the bank. $39! That's like, a whole extra twenty in my pocket! I'm rich. Rich I tell you!

When I got to the bank and signed the check, I almost fell over. It wasn't $39. It was for the sale of 39 books! I knew then that either mom started getting much larger social security checks than normal, or a fair amount of local people are still buying and reading my books. The woman at the store also told me that a number of folks keep asking when my next one is coming out and why it's taking so long (it's been two years. The locals still don't see a need to bother with editing and don't care how many times I use the word 'that').

"We'd be insane to loan you money, Mr. Malone. Insane!"
From a business perspective, my low pricing for locals and brilliant scheme to giveaway books to anyone who looks like they need one, has proven to be a dismal financial failure. But from the standpoint of an independent writer, people are routinely buying, and in some cases, even reading, my books, and there is no greater reward, and it remains nothing short of miraculous...each and every time it happens.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Manuscript Editing and THAT Tenth Level of Hell

If my Cliff Notes version of Dante's Inferno is correct, then it has been asserted THAT there exist some nine levels of hell. He's got limbo and greed and anger and fraud in there, but somehow, he managed to leave one out, and I'm surprised since he was apparently a writer of some sort (at least that's what it says in the paragraph on the back of the three paged version I own).

Did I really double check my formatting before I clicked the print button? Did I???
The missing tenth level must be assigned to manuscript editing, or manuscript post editing, when you think that you're finished with something. It's only then when paranoia sets in and you begin to second guess every decision about punctuation and words and how you write.

I'd like to thank my good friend, Mr. Jack Kraven, for my most recent bout of writer's paranoia. A few weeks ago, Jack mentioned how he hated the word "that." I casually dismissed his expression of disdain for such a common word as the utterances of a man who's spent too much time alone in the back country of Montana, and is (following a long winter) probably standing (or teetering rather) upon the precipice of sanity.


I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you, to Jack, for having planted the tiniest seed inside my head. A seed, oddly enough, that would grow and flourish as I edited until I finally awoke at 4:00am this morning, wide eyed, and wondering if I didn't use "that" too often. I'd never thought about that. Is that the that that has been holding me back from ascending to that fabled land of literary greatness? Is that the that that has garnered so much attention amongst literary agents in the way of spammed out rejection form emails?

Buy THAT Book Here!
This morning as I sat down to edit my new novel, I couldn't stop thinking about that. I went back and looked at Silence of Centerville again and discovered that there are indeed unnecessary that's in that book. In a panic that could only be described as a that attack, I began to work my way through the original files and edit out those thats. I had set aside my editing of that new book, and the writing of that even newer one to look at the thats that plagued that older title. It was only when I had made it all the way to Chapter 3 that I finally said, "f@ck that."

A book is never perfect. Words strung together to form thoughts and ideas and stories can never be complete, for as the writer grows, his or her style changes. It might improve. It might simply be different than it was a decade or even a year before. But as an independent author in the modern era where editing a new version of a book can be done with the push of a button, it's simply too tempting to keep polishing and chiseling at your words. And it's highly possible that using search tools to seek and destroy your usage of a single word or term can have a negative effect on the original flow and cadence of a work. 

I yam what I yam.
I want to get my new novel completed so I can write the next one. If that means living with all of my thats then that is what I must do. I will try and work on my thats in the future. That, you can be sure of. But that, and all my other thats that are out there, that are in Silence of Centerville, are here to stay. And that's a fact, Jack!

Now get off of my damned blog and go write something for Christ's sake. The world needs more thats in it.

Official THAT tally:
Silence of Centerville    1,494
Work in Progress         1,433 
Thanks for Reading, Everyone!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Manuscript Massacre - A Writer's Nightmare

Hemingway's house in Key West, Florida. It's beautiful. It was here that I penned the first few lines, jotted down on a piece of scrap paper, of what would ultimately become the manuscript entitled Losing Meadow Brook, while sitting in the garden. The scrap paper was a receipt for a book we bought there. It was tucked carefully inside the back cover.

Islamorada Key, Florida
Back at our hotel that evening, I'd transform those few lines into an introduction. They were as crisp and perfect and beautiful as the setting sun over the Caribbean sky that night. As I wrote the book in the following months, each word was a labor of love. I was experimenting with a new voice, and a different style and allowed the dance between the characters to develop fully and take control of the story.

Me, ignoring all the rules of proper comma placement
 Straying from my natural tendency to produce a narrative that Kevin Costner could be reading in Dances With Wolves, I freed myself from the confines of my own voice, and experimented. I didn't write it for my fans (hi mom), or any market, or for anyone other than myself. I allowed the story to flow and I followed along and let it become whatever it might. It was a beautiful experience.

115,000 word novel personified
When it was complete, I knew that it was something special. The only trouble was that it came in at over 115,000 words. It was too damned big. When I had it test read, it was well received, but a portion (20%?) of the readers said it started out too slow for them and it was too wordy at times in the beginning. They were right and I knew it. I also knew the story could be told with 90,000 words. After a year, the time has come to face the monster I created. 

Happy Trees!
The artist inside of me scoffed at the notion of a work being "too long." It should take however many words it takes," I told myself. However, the practical side of me has had to come to terms with some harsh realities:
  1. Traditional publishers or agents aren't particularly fond of "emerging authors" (whatever the hell that means) writing novels in excess of 100k words.
  2. My existing fans are of the age (not exactly "tweens" or even twenty-somethings) where they prefer an actual book to read over e-books.
  3. If I self pub at 115k words, I'm going to have charge $400 retail on my paperbacks (same reason the other guys don't want them to be that long). I have no idea how many €'s that would be, but with the current exchange rates...I'm guessing...a lot.
  4. It's just too goddamned long for what it is (a novel, not an Ayn Rand or Harry Potter book).  
  5. No matter what B.S. I spew about not writing for an audience, my stomach turns to know that some people will put it down and never pick it up again if they feel for even a second that it's too wordy.  

If I don't finish this novel by midnight, I'll turn into a pumpkin
Time and pressure can turn coal into diamonds. It also has a way of eating away at the resolve of a writer's natural bent toward procrastinating things they don't want to do. It's impossible to start something new with such a herculean task hanging over your head. No matter what you work on, it's always there, gnawing at the back of your brain.

"Nurse, hand me my comma scalpel. I'm going in."
Like a surgeon, I opened the file and looked at the words. With a tiny scalpel, I could remove bits here and pieces there, and my pound of literary flesh might not seem so vital.

Why you should never read blogs while in the shower.

But it isn't a pound of flesh we are speaking of. It's 20% of the novel. It will require more than a surgeon's scalpel to flesh it out.

Enter The Editor
At twenty percent, a large knife won't even get it all. It will be gruesome and painful. And the worst part is already known to me. Those first few beautiful words I wrote in Key West that started it all...every single of one them will fall to the cutting room floor. And whatever do you do with words like those?

Let the chips fall where they might. The battle lines have been drawn. 20,000 words shall perish in coming days, or I'll die in the process. I'm going in...

Thanks for reading!