Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Oh My Head

A ditty on the near-psychotic state into which I’ve fallen post and pre-publication of my first two books.

I spent various stretches of time within a two and a half year period writing and completing “Ring Around The Rosy”. Make that three years, and even more time/life devotion in the research and writing of my forthcoming “Astoria Strange”. (And when/if it will be forthcoming is a story I’ll get to in a moment.)WB_Cushman_Front

I’ve stated in a previous log that when it comes to understanding and following directions related to anything with even the slightest hint of technology – see, creating PDF files for book covers, formatting to meet print and eBook requirements, assembling a yoyo — I’m lost. And useless to myself.  So I have to find who can do those things and pay them to do them for me and then hope they are done correctly (which I’m discovering is almost never) when I submit them in the hopes that a book will, as if by magic, appear.

Eventually these issues/struggles/headaches were worked out with my first book and my “Rosy” saw the light of day. To date some 50 people have bought copies, for which I am exceedingly grateful, one small step toward my goal of 10,000 copies sold. However, only 20% of those purchasing people have, subsequent to reading it, gone over to Amazon and left a review – and I’m talking three or four lines, not the Gettysburg Address. I don’t know why that is, I honestly don’t, though a dark cloud of suspicion trails behind me and whispers that many if not most of the buyers never bothered to read the book. Seriously. Maybe they bought it to be nice, to be friendly, to support a first-time author. But they didn’t read it because, as has been noted in a previous post on this Blog space, 53% of everyone over 18 years of age in the United States never reads another book – not a one – after leaving high school. Which, I am coming to believe, sadly, includes my Facebook and email and Twitter friends and followers. Like, before this, I thought my friends had to be hipper than the general population. But.

What’s an author to do? I have begged and cajoled, reminded and revisited book-buying friend after friend to take four or five minutes and leave an Amazon review. Because I’ve learned that there’s something called an algorithm, and for Amazon books that magic number is 20 reviews. Twenty reviews pushes the algorithm and that pushes the book in front of a lot more people. And please let me be clear here. Short of a terrific Stephen King endorsement or a call from Stephen Spielberg, he’d like to purchase the rights for his next film, this isn’t about making money. Full disclosure reveals that for each paperback I sell on Amazon I clear a hefty $2.78. For each eBook it’s $2.02. To date my expenses to publish and then minimally market “Rosy” are something around $396. That includes a number of paperbacks I’ve bought in bulk, to sign and sell, and on those I make a little more.

The point is, it ain’t “Show me the money.” What it is, and I’m betting this is true in some manifestation or another with every author, is having the book seen/read by a whole bunch of people. Because I believe in it, think it’s good, think it has positive things to say about life, human qualities we need to be reminded of now more than ever.

This will be true for “Astoria Strange” as well, and in fact, because the number of words are much greater than in “Rosy” – more than three times greater – the book will cost much more to prinfront_covert and I will have to charge more for each book, and after all that make even less per book, like $2.44. It’s not the money. As Salem State (MA) College professor Jay McHale once said — “The tissue is the issue.”

I will have published two books in my 69th year on the planet, and my preference is that people read them, at least those among the 47% who actually continue to read after their 18th birthday. I say “will have published” because this morning I received the proofs back from Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing company for the final check before they become real, tangible, hold them in your hands things, and lo and behold, the “A” in Astoria was sliced in half off the front cover.  Maybe the book should be titled “Storia Strange”, maybe there’s an alliterative spell to be cast. Hopefully they can fix it, I like it the way I wrote it.

The writing is hard, in a way, and also incredibly thrilling – it’s beyond a mescaline trip to watch as things happen completely on their own, and characters show up never before considered. Like three homeless guys in (A)storia, and a junior high girl named Elsbeth Dowd. Never mind detectives from other states that show up in the quaint Oregon coastal town and jump right into the middle of all the hooptedoodle. Yes, there’s magic in being a writer.

The technical stuff, the half-assed attempts at marketing, the chronic begging of friends for support – I’ve come to learn that part of being a writer is what it is. Add it all up. At least for me, it means a self-publishing, rushing toward 70, left coast yippie finally living out this particular dream.

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The Writing Was the Easy Part

I am a technological toad. As in, I can never find the right place to put the thumb drive into the computer. Or if I luck out, figure how to get stuff from the computer onto the thumb drive. I need to haul my step-daughter down into the basement – amidst her giggles – and beg for help. Not just one time – every time.

Imagine, then, my journey into the world of self publishing. I thought writing the story was the hard part. But…….no. It’s the uploads and jpegs, the mobis and pdfs. It’s trying to understand the step-by-step directions, having been assured as to their ease of that understanding. It’s the asking for help on my Facebook writer’s group, asking to have it explained to me like I’d just dropped onto the planet and understood not a word of its language — and still not having a clue when people have coddled me and easy does’d me, it all still sounding Roman.

I read and heard that I could self-publish for free – after having sent my first ever novel (kind of a 52K word novella) to five publishing houses – start spreading the news in NYC and cheerio to London – and when I received rejections and/or silence, I turn to the pay-us-and-wewb_cushman_front_1600x2400‘ll-publish-it-for-ya publishers and was bullied a little here and there, and didn’t have the money for that anyway, it turns out.

By the way, that’s my first novel right over there on the left side of the page. It’s titled “Ring Around the Rosy” and it began as a short story submission for an on-line magazine requiring an apocalyptic setting and at least one character with a disability, but quickly raced past the word limit, and slowly, very slowly, with a six-month break in the writing during a big lifestyle change, it got done, now with three characters with a condition considered a disability, apocalypse or not. Or, don’t dis my ability.

So, anyway, I was strongly encouraged to turn to CreateSpace, a free self-publishing entity part of the Amazon world, for both paperback and ebook publication, and stumbled upon other similar services including IngramSpark and Draft2Digital. Well, as I’ve indicated above, I was simply incapable of figuring out how and doing the simple things they asked me to do. With the story collecting (internet) dust, and remembering a conversation I’d had with a friend in Oakland, CA when I visited back in the spring, I turned on-line to an outfit called Fiverr. It basically a business that offers the services of people from all over the planet to do their thing, whatever thing it is that you need them to do. For me, to get going, I primarily needed help with creating a cover (my skill level – none) and formatting my Word document for pdf and mobi uploads (moi skill level – ditto).

As fortune would have it – and doesn’t fortune smile on techie toads – I hired a woman in England, name of Victoria, to create a cover, including the spine (wouldn’t have thought of that) and back cover. That’s it up there, the end of the world as we know it landscape with Rosy in her chair, Teddy with his Down Syndrome, nerdy Matt the attendant, Felix, Marvin, well, all of them. It’s quite beautiful and it thrills me to look at it, and it coast me $25. Then I was fortunate to find another young women, Beenish Qureshi in Pakistan, to create the appropriate formatting for both paperback and ebook requirements ($50).

The writing of the book extended somewhere beyond a year and a half, and the finding and messaging back and forth with the Fiverr women has been going on maybe five or six weeks now. As I write this, January 12, 2017, my book – My Book – is live for sale on Amazon as an ebook for Kindle,and a couple of glitches and proofs away from a paperback you’ll be able to hold in your hands, sink back in an easy chair, and join the kids’ adventure.

Someone must have kissed this toad.

(By the way, they’ve given me an Author Page at Amazon and you can find the book there – www.amazon.com/author/wbcushman )

(One more By the way – the writing was a lot of work. It wasn’t, in fact, easy. Just way easier than all this other stuff.)

 

 

 

 


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Scrapheap City

dyst-1
Last Thursday I typed in the last line for my first ever book, a 52,000 word novella titled “Ring Around the Rosy”. What began as a short story for a specific on-line magazine submission request took on a life of its own, and as I strolled past the 7000 word submission limit I knew that the story had something else in mind. I did not know I’d come back to the story, on and then off, for more than a year and a half, but I got to like the characters a lot, and wanted to find how they did with their challenges.

In addition rosy-mapto the 7000 word limit, the magazine noted two other story requirements: at least one main character with a disability, physical and/or mental; and the setting for the story had to be one of apocalypse. I believe I met both those requirements, and my story has been sent off to a small group of “Readers” for consideration and feedback. After I’ve received replies from my Readers I’ll begin the process of re-write, and once satisfied, the journey where no W.B. Cushman has gone before — into the world of traditional and on-line publication. I’m excited for it all.

It’s the idea of apocalypse and the potential for some kind of dystopian future that I want to discuss here. It all seems too real these days, that possibility, a Mad Max, Blade Runner, Soylent Green, Children of Men, Matrix of an existence. Our two candidates for President, apparently the best we can do – North Korea’s arrogant and in-yourdyst-6-face nuclear game of the ‘Dozens’ with the world – global religious warfare – honor killings – original inhabitants of this country maced and set upon by dogs for defending sacred tribal lands and the right to drink fresh water  www.youtube.com/watch?v=VADcWANqBp8 — families crushed by eighteen-wheelers in the south of France.

Mon Dieu.

My  “Rosy” story’s wasteland setting is more the result of humankind’s stupidity, not the outcome of hate and fear-monging, gender repression and ethnic cleansing. Who knows where those behaviors, if ongoing, will take us.

Anyway, I offer today a vision, a dystopian vision I guess, of where we may be headed, may in fact, be rushing toward. In pictures and musical words.

First, Australia’s Divinyls – “Back to the Wall”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrBd96o7y4Y

Here, science fiction writer Philip K Dick’s stories, brought to the silver screen:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmujN53yNIA

My “Rosy” story is about children. Here’s a scene from ‘Children of Men’, when children no longer exist: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBzWTIexszQ

Or this chilling fudyst-5ture from ‘V For Vendetta’, which doesn’t seem all that improbable:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrwTDfdck7I

The Kinks, not like you usually hear them, with this possible dystopia – “Scrapheap City”. Sing it, girls:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuyP-VI_ves

The future. Who does it belong to? What will it bring? In my “Rosy” story, it brings heartbreak and devastation. But there remains some good.

And because there does, I’ll end this piece, a little schizophrenically, on the upside, that maybe there just might be at least a smidge of hope. Because of people.  ’16 Blocks’   www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlQse0lODq0

 


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Finish it, will ya!

20140817_090403I have this problem. With my writing. I can’t seem to finish things. Actually, “can’t” is probably the wrong word. A better word is “don’t”. So as not to let myself off the hook. I could, in fact, finish things — books, stories, novellas — but I tend not to. I don’t.

Which is a problem, a problem that is entirely, one hundred percent, ain’t no sharing here, on me. I suppose I could deflect some of this obvious personal character defect — my parents weren’t tough enough, too much sparing the rod and spoiling the child; teachers all along the way didn’t push me, didn’t motivate me, didn’t raise the bar for me; I fell in with a crowd at an early age that was more interested in quality testing of various liquid refreshments like Haffenreffer Private Stock and Chianti (with those cool, round, basket-weave coverings that we used for hip candle holders) and Tango; that I grew up in an age that idolized endless wandering and meandering.

But that would be punking out. I worked for a youth program in San Francisco for a while, with lots of cool, righteous, ‘you are responsible for you’ sayings. One of them was “Own Your Own”. It’s a good one, and I get it and accept it, which means that as far as my starting and not finishing writing projects goes, it is my problem. It’s all about me.

I don’t know why that is, this failure to finish. I suppose a good therapist might help me puzzle it out in three or four years. But, I’m a struggling artist and wannabe writer with very little in the way of money, so that’s not an option.

Which is why I am writing this post. To ask for help. Yours. I need your help.

Let me give a few examples, and I’ll be brief because there’s some other stuff I want to do.

A little over a year ago, after a drive-through with my son Cameron and his family, I wrote a story about a trout farm, and some strange, lethal going ons there. I set the story just outside Astoria, on the Oregon coast and Columbia River. The story was just under 9000, not all that long but not short either. A couple of weeks later I had an idea for another story, about what happens when you drink too much coffee at night, and set that one in Astoria too. Soon after a “Duh” moment occurred, and I realized I could write a book of short stories — I settled on eleven — all set in Astoria, which would be my first ever book, “Astoria Strange”. I plugged along, took a fiction writing class at Portland State, kept writing, and sometime in June finished the 10th story, “Texas Two-Step”.

By that time, in mid-June, I had written just under 130,000 words, had completed ten stories, awaiting re-write and revision. This morning, October 7th, while meditating in the pre-dawn dark (where I usually sit in a chair for 20 minutes or so and think about the Red Sox and other stuff), the thought came to me, in bright neon signage, that I was a story short from writing my first ever book, here in my seventh decade on the planet, and three months had passed since the last one. Double duh.

Here’s another example. I began a short story for a specific submission request that required some kind of apocalyptic event and a leading character with a disability long ago, early summer (just when I was not finishing my book). Very quickly I passed the limit of words that particular submission allowed, and kept going. I went past 10,000, I went past 20,000, I went past 30,000. I knew I had my first ever novella in the making, under then name “Ring Around the Rosy”, and realized, hopefully without arrogance, that it was pretty damned good. But somewhere in August the writing slowed down. I did manage, in late September, to pass 40,000 words, but the steam was running out of my engine. Rosy and her friends were staring at me, pleading for resolution. Total duh.

Instead, I began another story, for another submission, and it’s 4000 words down on the basement computer. It’s been there a while. I wrote, last Saturday, a flash fiction piece of 1200 words and sent it off the same day. See — I can finish stuff.

I should also mention that I have, sitting somewhere in the electrical innards of this computer, the beginnings of two other novels, both begun last winter — one about a young man with polio in Berkeley who is becoming a Jim Rockford character, and another about a kid from Wareham, Massachusetts who drinks too much, suffers a head injury, and begins having premonitions and visions, which will lead him on a long journey to a bar in Santa Monica, CA, where he spends his time, not drinking, but doing something else.

I don’t know what. Yet. I don’t know how the “Rosy” story ends. Yet. I don’t know what story to tell for my 11th and final “Astoria” story. Yet. I don’t know how Bennie in Berkeley rescues the runaways in the Tenderloin. Yet.

I say “Yet”, with great hope, that the endings will come, happy or not, and I will finish these projects. Instead of starting another one. And then another one.

I don’t know what’s wrong, with me. So I am asking for your help. All suggestions, opinions, diagnoses, go jump in the lakes, any of it will be greatly appreciated.

Right now I need to get back to this painting I’m working on.