Friday, July 22, 2011
Rough Living in the Now
I suppose this is as good a place as any to write what I feel like writing.
I've been doing some serious purging of my writing, my books, and everything else I've been defining myself with for the past decade. I guess, I'd just like to write about it where someone can read it if they want but where it won't really bother anyone. this is the spot.
Let's start with my books. Back in the 1990's writing a book seemed like an impossible task to me. I was working in films and radio in Alaska and Washington and since I was eating with John Sayles on a regular basis, I decided to write a screenplay. The girl I lived with used to watch this silly English sitcom called keeping up appearances and I decided to take that type of obnoxious woman character and make her an obnoxious cruise ship passenger in Junea, Alaska. The result, based on both of our horrendous experiences with being a waiter and waitress was my first screenplay 'Waiter'. I was never able to get John Sayles to look at it, but I still crack up when I read it. It's hilarious and good - but never went anywhere.
Next I wrote a screenplay about a dishwasher who is really the smartest man in America and who becomes the president only to get assassintated. I labored over this thing for months and months. Again, it was good. I queried an agent and pitched it, sent it to him...and he returned it saying I needed to learn proper screenplay formatting. It destroyed me. He didn't even open it past page one. The thing was though...it really was good.
My ideas of being a screenwriter were destroyed and after working in a London casting office for a month, I knew I didn't want to do that either. My boss had me reading screenplay after screenplay and casting British actors I'd never heard of. One night one of the actors and I got obscenely drunk at the Groucho Club and caused a big problem. I'd never heard of him but over the next few years I saw Jude Law in more and more films. I still don't remember what we did to get kicked out, but my boss was livid.
I left London and returned to the Pacific Northwest where I started a magazine with friends. The idea was to create a social media where community and culture could interact with the environment, news, and business. We married the magazine to a website and tried to foster community interaction. This was 1998-1999 and it was too early for social media on the web. People were still learning how to use email. After a year, I was running the magazine and site by myself and my friends were doing other things. My savings were gone. I was in debt. I couldn't pay rent. All of my buddies were getting rich working for dot-coms in Seattle with stock options.
Too late, I jumped in. I got into a Seattle tech company as a 'partner' with plenty of stock options just as the tech bubble started to burst. I watched this idiotic company take a good idea and expand it beyond their ability to run it with millions upon millions of dollars of venture capital. I told my coworkers that the money was going to run out and then I quit- then the company went belly up. It was a complete obscenity and I went as far from tech as I could. I became a community organizer for ACORN and worked in South Seattle, Kent, and Tacoma. I got harrassed by the police, landlords, and the pay was crap. The people? Mostly they just wanted to have someone else fix their problems so they could get more money.
That wasn't for me either. As a volunteer I got a stipend but it wasn't much. I found a meth head selling a VW bus for $100 and I moved into it and out of my Green Lake house. I told everyone I was retiring and refusing to work, instead I was looking for how to live without being a slave. I started writing my first book and tentatively called it "My Time is My Own". Later, I renamed it to "20 Weeks a Bum".It was a combination of what I was learning and some serious drug, drunk, and sex adventures I was having along the way.
At the end of 20 weeks, I hit two jackpots on the same slot machine on two different days and hit the road to China and Southeast Asia. When I got back I holed up in a trailer in Florence, Oregon and started writing stories of my adventures. All this time I was sending query letters to publishing houses, agents, and editors and getting back nothing but a few rejection form letters. Most didn't even reply.
I went to Hawaii and began working on a novel, loosely based on myself but the plot was about two guys robbing an armored car to find love and money and the answers to all their problems. Meanwhile I was having a great time in Hawaii but money was still missing and that led to love problems. I got involved with a gorgeous flight attendant, fell in love, and found out she wanted someone with more...potential i.e. potential to earn cash. I followed her to Portland, Oregon and got a job as a stock broker to try to prove my potential to her. All I proved was that I was desperate and able to pass financial exams and trick people out of their money. I hated being a broker. While I was working and trying to win the girl, she got serious with a pilot and broke off communication. So I started putting together a book called "Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagobond." I found a company that was willing to publish it. They did- but they didn't offer any sort of promotion or distribution. And they misspelled Vagobond as vegebond on the spine of the book. Worthless.
Still, I quit my job and started going from bar to bar and selling books. I moved in with a wonderful girl who believed in me and my writing. It wasn't meant to be though. I couldn't handle being someones ward, especially while she was working in Alaska and the South Pole. I wrote Slackville Road, worked on a fishing boat, and left her when I had eneough to go back to Hawaii. I finished Slackville living in a van I bought for $150 and working at the library and coffee shops each day on a laptop I'd traded my VW bus for on the mainland. I pulled Rough Living from the publisher and put all my books on Lulu.com.
I jumped islands in the Pacific and almost got married in the Philippines before coming back to Hawaii and getting into another relationship. It was during that time I wrote The S.O.B and revised Rough Living:Tips and Tales of a Vagobond into Rough Living: An Urban Survival Manual. I wrote other things, self published other things, and tried to pass other things off as books, but really that was it. There was a compilation of Anarchist Manifestos called The Anarchist Manifesto Project and a book about salmon fishing in the Puget Sound.
After that relationship ended I tried to write a companion to Rough Living called Liminal Travel, but frankly, I was trying to hard. I published my Thesis about Fans and the anthropology of the social web "Lost in Transmission" and then I bundled up all of my various writings into "The Vagobond Files" and followed that with ten years of my journals in "The Vagobond Diaries 1990-2000".
Finally, after I became Muslim, I wrote a short book called "Spiritual Fasting: Ramadan for Everyone" in which I tried to get people to fast whether they are Muslim or not during Ramadan. And finally there was All there is to it, is to do it. My guide to freelancing and quitting your wageslave job plus a short report I published called 25 Travel Blog Secrets.
All told my books went into about 20,000 hands but eBook versions of Rough Living: An Urban Survival Manual can be found all over the web so there may have been a lot more people who have read or seen them.
Finally, I put them on Amazon as Kindle books back in May.
It was then in June that I began this purge. First I removed the ebooks I was selling from Lulu and direct from my site. Next week I will remove the kindle books.
Why? I'm tired of those books defining me. I'm tired of being defined by books that sell ten copies a month. I'm tired of being defined by books that more than one agent told me "You're writing is great, but your demographics don't have money" or don't buy books or there isn't a market for this. They were right and it's time to throw out the baby and the bathwater.