Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Trailers and Publishing

The world of publishing these days is in the midst of a sea change. The brick and mortar sellers are disappearing, and some of the best writing is coming from small and independent publishers. The big houses are spending less on promotion, and authors find themselves now the main promoters of their work. Social media has become a way for them to network, promote new books and short stories. They find themselves responsible for booking their own readings and signings at local book stores.

Book trailers have become a recent addition to the literary world. They are video promotions used as a launch element. They are basically put together by the author or a techie type family member or friend. The ones who have some money to work with, hire a professional to produce it. They come as a grab bag of pseudo big budget movie trailers, to mundane talking head author interviews.

Most authors will tell you that they detest the idea of having to do this. After pouring your soul into the creation of a work, the idea that you now have to become a snake oil salesman is horrifying. We, as authors, would like to think that our work will find its audience, and that the work speaks for itself. The sad fact is that no one will buy your book, if they don’t know about it.

The home for these trailers, is YouTube.

Many people view them as truly strange cultural artifacts. I’ll let you judge.

I have two examples from author friends who have the same publisher as me.

String Bridge by Jessica Bell

Jessica Bell grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s. She spent much of her childhood traveling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for Hellenic American Union, Cengage Learning, Pearson Education, Education First and Signature Manuscripts. Jessica Bell has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. Jessica sings on the video.

My Beginning by Melissa Kline

Melissa Kline penned her first novel at the age of thirteen and has been writing consistently for fifteen years. She has completed ten young adult novels and several short stories. Her preferred genre is young adult, but she writes non-fiction and children's books as well. Her calling is to connect with others and give hope through writing. She is particularly interested in supporting women and young adults.

Now here is my low budget, low tech video trailer of one of my books, written under the pen name, Tonto Fielding.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rules of the One Finger Wave (Not That Kind)

As the title indicates, this is not about the rules of flipping the bird. Entire books could be written about that topic. No-- this is about a rural phenomena. It consists of having at least one hand at the top of your steering wheel and when someone comes toward you in the opposite direction, you casually lift one finger as a wave. This is when the other person will also lift their finger, or not.

Coming from a typical suburban neighborhood, near a major mid-western city, I was not inculcated to the exact rules. This practice does not exist in any form in this environment. But also having spent all my summers on an island off the upper peninsula of Michigan, I was somewhat accustomed to the practice. When I started driving, it was time for me to put theory into practice. The problem was that the rules were vague and had to be learned through trial and error.

To date, I am still uncertain about the rules.

Now, if it is someone you definitely know is coming at you, this is good time to give the wave. If they don’t respond, either they are preoccupied or they just don’t like you. At one point I thought that I would just do it to everybody, as if I were actually a local. The percentage of response was low. Drat!

Sometimes when someone you do not know does give the wave back, that person is either not sure of the rules themselves, or is simply polite. I would love to hear what they are saying to each other (if there are two people in the car), or maybe not. It might not be flattering. You have to remember that even if you have lived in a place for a time, unless you were born there, you will always be an outsider.

But I will not admit defeat. I love giving the wave. It makes me feel good, especially if I get a response. This is probably because, as a city person, deep down there is a need to connect to others. We all want that rural sense of belonging to a community.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Unlock Our Hearts Once More

A philosopher of the kitchen table once said of Babbage’s calculating machine, “What a satire, by the way, is that machine on the mere mathematician! A Frankenstein monster, a thing without brains and without heart, too stupid to make a blunder; which turns out results like a corn-sheller, and never grows any wiser or better, though it grind a thousand bushels of them!”

But of what do we attribute to human genius, and our constitutional compact to glorify ourselves? And of our assigning an expedient neutrality to the other inhabitants of our terrestrial globe?

One might point to language as the difference.

Yet the verbs, nouns and adjectives, which we might refer to as our wit and character, are only signifiers of a peculiar intervenience in our innermost history, subject to the same natural laws as the tulip bulb that breaks forth from the ground and becomes a crescendo of wondrous colors.

If we become deaf to the difference between the rational and irrational utterances issued from ourselves, and blind to the genius of the tulip (its look, sound, smell, taste and feel), it will also be impossible for us to tell the difference between man and our Frankenstein monster.

Let us not forget the origins of the noun: which is related to the Latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, "to bring into being, create, produce."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing As Two People

I have two novels that were published in 2010. The first, The Prophet of Sorrow, is an historical/literary novel that centers on the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. The story is told by the assassin, Ramón Mercader, with journal entries from other characters. The other novel is a comic romp, The Hillbilly Vampire Chronicles, written under the pen name Tonto Fielding. Tonto also has a comedy blog:

I have to wear two hats.

With the Prophet, I get to explore the use of language. I purposely wrote in a style that would let me explore the inner word-nerd in me--

David Alfaro Siqueiros: Journal

They say that, typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are splintered, turbulent, and not particularly skilled at emotional communication. I would say that the impetus for my mordancy came from the Marist fathers. Like so many other Marxist and atheists in Mexico, I had an early Catholic education. Like the fathers, I believe that when I am morally right, any blocking or changing of my obligations is viewed as an unbearable indignity, which should not have to be suffered.

I do not look to God for salvation, but to Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec king. He symbolizes the glory of Mexico and all things noble and good. In contrast, Cortés symbolizes black-hearted evil and the epitome of Western imperialist domination.

Creativity, which has been a deliberate part of my spiritual search, may be expressed not only in aesthetics but in creative action; in a way that rallies people to confront social injustice. My soul is passionately committed to creating a better world.

Just as in the world, not all factors in a work of art are equivalent. Structure, composition, and arrangement result from the subordination of certain integrants to others. It creates a flow, and the illusion of movement that is beyond the limits of psychological time. Through this flow, the artist creates a correlation between the construction and the subordination. Art represents the interaction of this struggle: the unfolding of the temporal, pure motion. Without this enslavement, or the calculated distortion of antecedents, there can be no art.

Art itself is a cognitive function that does not need emotive involvement. Emotion was not made to facilitate art, but art was made to facilitate the expression of it: the undercurrents of arousal and fury.

In the Hillbilly Vampire Chronicles, the tables are turned and I have free reign to use dialogue to define the characters--

The renovation kept Amos busy for a time, while Esther continued to smoke her meth. Pacing the length of the trailer, she would peek out through the sheets they had hung as curtains. Certain that the midget clowns were peering at her from the woods, the paranoia inundated her.

She grabbed the .22 automatic and unloaded a clip at the perceived lurking shadows. Amos hearing the burst came running out of the bedroom and relieved her of the weapon.

“Jesus Christ, you’re going to kill one of those kids.”

“It’s the midgets. Don’t you see them in that tree line? There planning to invade the trailer, I tell you.’

“Midgets? Are you crazy? Oh man, are you ever fucked up,” Amos said.

“Quiet! They can read our thoughts,” she said while picking at her skin.

She took another swig from the ever-present can of Mountain Dew she used to allay a perpetual case of dry-mouth.

The hillbilly father came banging on the door.

“Oh shit, it’s them,” she screamed. “Give me that gun back.”

“Just a second,” Amos called out.

He answered the door and had to deal with the irate neighbor. He explained that it was an accident and settled the situation by offering the gun to him to borrow for some hunting.

“We need to talk, Esther.”

“Sure but they can hear us. We need to find a safe place. Come with me. Now get down here and stick your head in the oven. We can talk in here.”

“I ain’t sticking my head in no oven.”

As Shakespeare said, “Now, by two-headed Janus. Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.”

With me, it’s inside my noggin.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review--The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

The Dog of the SouthThe Dog of the South by Charles Portis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Celebrate the fact that Charles Portis’ novels are no longer out of print and hidden in used book stores. If I could remember whose summer reading list I got this title from, I would go kiss her or him on the lips. The Dog of the South defines the identity of my generation’s time, the way Wallace Stegner did for my father’s. This novel abides by the rules of popular fiction, but also captures the breadth, majesty and complexity of our people. Portis does so with a cast of flamboyant characters who are transplanted to Mexico and Belize, and become victims of unbelievable circumstances. We have a garrulous con artist, political lunatics, missionaries, cranks, and disgraced dreamers. The great American novel is supposed to have the ability to define our society and culture through high art. The Dog of the South is that novel, masquerading as popular fiction. Time alone will bring this opinion into our national consciousness.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 30, 2011

When Clouds Are Not As They Seem

Having fallen into the empty
swimming pool, I stare at the wandering

sun. I bite the dog and sting the
spider called Tarantula. I laugh

at the magistrate, his madness now
perfectly apprehensible, because we both

mouth the very first language. Clouds,
come into view, appearing at first to be

Stratus, but are not, only the ethos of
Cirrus in dissimilarity, in caricature.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Three screws left, important,
critical. This assemblage now
minus its animus, one the brain,
the others perhaps not, like
the appendix. It may seem as
it should, but ill, one link away
from total ruin, one piece flying
off, blinding, debilitating the
child who wants to evolve into
a new race, mutable, now fleecing
bolts, gears, organs, more screws,
standing naked before the creator.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pick Up

First, the guy next to me
is called. Must be a friend.

Pick me, pick me. Surely
I’m much better than the

new guy. Who is he anyway?
Nobody knows if he’s

any good. Pick me, pick me.
Back on my street, I’m always

the captain, always the
quarterback. Hell, I even call

the plays. Pick me, pick me.
What? Not that guy. Friend again.

Has to be. Are they blind? I’m
Still here, now getting really

confused. I score touchdowns.
Remember that bomb to Dave?

And everybody said, “Nice throw.
Good arm.” Remember? Pick me,

pick me. Now I get it. It’s a joke,
They’re just kidding, right?

Not funny. Pick me, pick me. A girl?
Oh, I think I’ll just go die now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Some said
there were
distinct species,
but they
mistook solidarity
for the hyaline,
glassy twin,
a dead ringer for
Picasso’s death
mask, hanging on
the wall
of the
gallery, filled
with marionettes
wine and eating
living images,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Battle of Hammond Lake

Carp is a muddy fish.
So are catfish.
My cousin and I were too,
when we would run and
jump off the bluff
into the muck,
to see how deep we could
get stuck, pulling each other
out like horses in
a war, which are needed to pull
other stuff, that is, unless
they’re so cemented, there’s
nothing left to do but put a
bullet into them. Whether in
advance or retreat
expediency is essential.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


said that the only
pleasure of the world,
is a quiet soul.
But by confession, he
never jumped
from an airplane,
shot cold water
into a hot vein, or
smashed through doors,
looking for lovers
and splintered dreams.
But Plato knew better:
proceed from
pinions tattooed,
fear and sorrow
at full extension.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Inherent Conflict between Freedom and Equality

It is generally not too much of a strain to perceive that American’s tend to assign greater emphasis to “freedom’ than to “equality.” There has always been a conflict between these two concepts throughout our history. One might say that the tension between them has provided an important dynamic element in our political culture: that the question of priority to one or the other has always been a matter of controversy. Our response to this dilemma has always been to assign meaning to equality, so that it accords with it’s subordination to liberty.

Our culture does not seem to be interested in offering any resolution to the ambiguity.

Lets us look at liberty. It is an individual responsibility, not a license. We tend to think of rights, rather than duties. Along with this comes a suspicion of established authority and a deep aversion to visible restraints from any social organization. We value choice in matters of religion, consumption, and employment, even though rarely is active choice ever actually exercised.

We tend to view equality as a historical phenomenon: a rejection of hereditary privilege and of a closed class system. Today, we find its expression in the recurring themes of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism. What it does not account for, is that it has never assumed biological equality or equalization through material benefits of society. Equality in terms of wealth does not jive with twenty first century American culture.

We find ourselves creating a definition of equality once more, so that it will give priority to freedom. Twenty first century America assumes that wealth is a benign and abundant reward that nature provides for those who merit it. It is a “just reward.” All the while we justify ourselves by chanting the mantra—“equality of opportunity.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Blind and Naked Illuminati

Well, it was inevitable, I guess. The Facebook social network it is just that—a social network. And, as is the case with all networks, the commentators and propagators of etiquette will surely arise. In the wee hours of mice and phantasm, I came upon a person who was calling all the people who hit “like” on one of his “status updates” crude. The update was about the death of another poet. At first I had to rub my eyes… surely this educated man could not be that stupid, to believe that people were hitting “like” because they were happy the poet was dead? Perhaps this person does not understand that most people try to hit “Like” often, to let people know they are not posting to themselves, but to others. It is a way to acknowledge that they took the time to stop and read your status update. But to come out and call them crude is plain ignorance.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Silence Is Killing Me

I need to hear the screaming voice of
the stereo salesman, who keeps putting
fritos into his mouth, spewing
microscopic shards like flak, apologizing
that he missed his break, that he has
the best numbers in town, look at the
size of those woofers, dude, more shards,
needing to take cover, but I need the
noise, the bass that goes right through me,
over the hook, the one he is sure to get
the sale with, dude, I’m practically giving
them to you, listen to that mid-range,
digging to the bottom of the bag, wetting
his finger and shoving it into the corner
of the bag for that last morsel of corn,
because he gets so hungry being the best
salesman in the city, in the state, in the
whole world, noise, noise, noise, which
I need, because the silence is killing me.

Friday, June 3, 2011


The Google view was
circumfluent voyeur,
able to make a close study
of the arena,
in all its phases,
go deep into the subconscious,
follow the chipmunk
into his hollow tie,
spying on me
as I pace the boundary;
this singular plot;
my length of planetarium,
from such a ghostly ark—
my countenance,
my groves
and contour lines,
fixed upon this transplant
surrounded by the
contingency of
marigolds and songbirds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why Bother Submitting Poetry To Lit Journals?

As a writer of three published books, I have to ask: why submit poetry to lit journals? The Midwest Book Review, Small Press Bookwatch: June 2009, said of my book Circus by Moonlight, it is “a perfect browse for the poetry enthusiast,” and “...establishes Williams as an impressive talent and skilled wordsmith, deserving of as wide and appreciative an audience as possible." But the lit journals seem to have no interest in any of my poetry. When cashing the royalty checks for my two novels, I now have to consider why I would even want to showcase my writing in a forum that concentrates on work that would otherwise not be able to find an audience in mainstream, commercial publishing (we are talking over 600 print and online journals). The rejection letters are short and succinct—No Thanks. As writers know, lit journal editors need never explain their publishing decisions, so I can only speculate as to the degree of arbitrariness that subserves their deliberations. My understanding is that most books of poetry, that originate from the increasing pool of MFA writers and their professor’s, will sell around twenty copies. This is considered a good run. Well, my poetry book is already way past that number in sales. I guess I’ll stick with commercial fiction from now on, and post my poetry online for the world to see and judge for themselves (there are no gate keepers on the web).

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Is This Thing Called Poetry?

[I originally wrote this as a guest blog article for Jessica Bell's The Alliterative Allomorph.]

Mozart claimed that his letters came from God. Seamus Heaney said that his poetry came from a metaphorical dig, to uncover the hiding places of his power. For each, the result could be referred to as the source of creative inspiration.

So what is it and where does it come from? There are concepts of poetry that developed in separate ancient civilizations, which had no contact with each other. Yet their ideas and notions about poetry had similarities.

From the beginning in Western culture, there has been a dual attitude toward this source. The poem is made not only by the poet, but it is given to him by a deity or spirit. From this tradition, we still equate inspiration with divine gifts or with some sort of spiritual enlightenment. We think of the very best poets, as those who submit to influences stronger than they are, because what they perceive to see seems inconceivable to them (things that as humans we can only have an inaccurate and vague notion of).

In the New World, the Mayan culture believed that poetry enraptured man, and intensified his emotions and perceptive powers. It enabled him to perceive what he (as a human) ordinarily could not. Once enraptured, the poet would speak the only truth on earth.

I do not subscribe to the influence of an enlightened spirit or Muse, or God. I see poetry as a way to plumb the depths of my imagination, through what I have experienced (especially childhood), and what I have read (here I’m talking about development of the intellect). For me, a poem is something that says more in a few words than a novel can in five hundred pages, with wit and word-play. It has an extraordinary mixing of music and thought. The job of the poet is to choose the right words, not only for sound (the music of poignant language) and connotation (landscape), but even for the countenance of them.

The poem corresponds to a centrifuge of sound, alliteration and rhythm. The reader will be walking into a world for the very first time; a world of terseness and parsimony. True poetry is derived from the poet’s peculiar type of knowledge, which is the fruit of his authentic inner experience, the result of intuition (perhaps this is the part many mistake for spiritualism). So the poem becomes a profound expression, through symbol and metaphor, of what the poet has intuitively and mysteriously discovered.

Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal, when discussing the creation of some new poetry, “I feel my mind, my imagination, nudging, sprouting, prying & peering.”

I could not have said it better.

Another person said, “What makes a good poem? A good poet.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Fedora

I have been a connoisseur of hats ever since I was a small boy. I even preferred them to toys (the exception being toy guns). But as an adult, I abhor real guns. Not so in the case of hats.

Me with some of my favorite hats.

Luckily for me, the Fedora is on the comeback, as well it should. Can you imagine Humphrey Bogart wearing a baseball cap?

I use my Fedora (The Sydney, by AKUBRA) as part of the persona created for the image of Tonto Fielding, the pen name I use for my comedy writing. Tonto is the author of The Hillbilly Vampire Chronicles, and the comedy blog—Hillbilly Vampire.

As Dr Who would say—Fedora’s are cool. Although there are those out there that would consider them to be a passing fad, I say that all those cool guys in the noir films are getting their just due, now that a few celebrities are letting us know by example, that you too can wear cool hats, and leave the ball caps in the closet.

Johnny Depp

Justin Timberlake

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is There a Word for Fear of High School Reunions?

News of my thirty-fifth high school reunion came only weeks ago, which is not very much time to prepare. As it turned out, my wife had a commitment to a scrapbooking workshop on that day. I wasn’t sure what I should do. In the end I have pulled a Ralph Perk. He was the mayor of Cleveland, who turned down an invitation to the White House during the Nixon administration, because it fell on his bowling night.
The event is tonight and here I am in Athens (the school is in Gates Mills, Ohio). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved.

Everyone knows how these milestones can create and foster exorbitant amounts of fear. We tend to revisit adolescent anxieties in our mind. Unfortunately for me, I am one of those peculiar people who can remember practically every day of their life. I can even recognize a person who I knew when I was six, after they have aged forty five years, instantly. I have vivid memories from when I was six months old, of my father and brother throwing snowballs at our window, as my mother holds me in her arms. My mother once took me to a friend’s apartment before my first birthday. I described the apartment to this friend almost thirty years later, and her jaw dropped to the floor. My description was accurate to the pattern of the oriental carpet.

So what does this have to do with high school? The problem for me is that the embarrassing and awkward moments have won the battle for prominence. The consequence is that high school has morphed into a nightmare. I have to force the good memories forward to balance the equation. Our school was small, but still large enough to have some cliques. I could be found straddled between the freaks and the geeks (if any of you remember the television show by that name). It took a long time to realize that life was so much more interesting as a geek. Hail the GEEKS! So now, to talk myself into actually attending my fortieth—I will have to remind myself, that by the time it arrives, most everybody will have been bitch-slapped enough by life, that any sense of entitlement will have been replaced by gratitude and humility, leveling the playing field.

Of course, at the same time, I know that I am not unique. There are others probably going through the same emotions.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Power Point

The presentation was a
weighty exploration, which

no doubt consisted of a
beginning, middle, and

one very sad, sad end,
imputations compacted

temporally in the
thesis, an arc of

sensation, which led
from case to captive,

charged with desire,
prospect, and ruin,

revealing the most
sympathetic story ever told.