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A Writer's Guide To The Book of The Dead.

SLAP HAPPY is here to confirm every scribbler's worst suspicions. There is a murky cloud hanging over our laptops, zapping connections to the Dark Side and a Devilish evil doer named Bob.

Sure, a writing career has its hilarious moments, or rather plots, but after all, laughing at misery is almost always a better option than total freak outs. If we didn't know going in, we learned the cold, hard facts of trying to be published the second we tapped in those damning words "Chapter One". A novel is a complicated, depleting, solitary journey. If a writer isn't a masochist at the beginning, by Chapter Ten, all is made clear—maybe we should have listened to Mom and joined a trade to unclog crappy drains, re-tar mobile home roofs in Florida or climb utility poles in a Cat 2 storm to tempt electrocution. Writing is definitely not an occupation for sissies.

I earned my credentials the hard way by knocking off nearly every agent who liked my work and refusing to give up despite the tons of rejections, insults, indifferent shrugs and dead-ends. So many hopes and promises dashed on the shores of Astral mischief and ennui. Thank the Lord, or somebody who's up there, we now have an explanation for all this poppycock. Publishers are no more than salesmen, hyping their newest gadget. Why should celebs and pols win all the rewards for their boring screeds and tell-all confessionals? Writers are like the icing on a cinnamon roll—nice but not really necessary. So why shouldn't the Dark Side offer a better deal, promise to level the playing field?

Being an author is not all weep and woe. Lots of us are published, have good reviews and actually enjoy writing and falling asleep on the keyboard at three am. l keep reminding myself how happy I am every day my email slaps me down to reality with a "Sorry, no thanks" flag.

Take a look at Slap Happy and join the company of every one of us who persists despite the crazy odds, bargains with Satan if need be to salve our souls with the promise of a best seller. In the process, we deserve a chuckle or two as we discover what fate and a little peek at reality in the Uni can look like.

There are a lot of odd things happening along the way to becoming a published author. Some funny, some not so funny, some stupid and a whole lot of crazy shit. But when writers get together to lay their hardship and heart-breaker stories on their audience, I think about my experience and know I'm secure in topping everybody else's.

I have had a number of literary agents tout my work and conduct auctions for what they claimed were sure winners with editors at top houses. Maybe they were right. Maybe not. But their history as my agent shares some amazing similarities. (I have blocked my current agent's access so they won't become number 7 on my amazing catastrophes list).

Here's how the story starts. Agent One -- a very gracious lady who gushed over my talents and recited a long, impressive list of editors anxious to publish my book. I signed the contract and kept an eye on the phone. Surely this wouldn't take long. Four months later with no word from Agent One, I swallowed my pride and called. Her partner answered. My agent was deceased. Undiagnosed Brain cancer swept her away over three months earlier. That was a

shock, but poop happens, right? On to Agent Two who grabbed me up only two weeks later. He was well known and handled many Best Seller authors. Wow. Things were looking up. He was off to the Frankfurt Book Fair with excellent prospects to sell my procedural series. Things were looking so good that he came back and started negotiations with Tri Star for a TV series filmed in Portland. Double WOW. Then he dropped off the planet. Cancer again. Contacts at Tri Star fell off the radar soon after

Well, since three's the Charm, how I could lose with another roll of the dice? Agent Three was a legend in the police procedural genre. Very excited about my characters and the fact I had already written five in the series. Super. Unfortunately while in Manhattan with my work in hand , he was squashed by a cab and checked out before the ambulance got there.

Now I must admit, I was starting to wonder if some old crone had leaned over my crib and laid a hex on me. I swore off looking for an agent and just wrote three more books to pass the time. But persistence has always been one of my vices. So . . . Agent Four was on the phone, eager about repping me. Another contract signed, another wait with no incoming. I was beginning to see the writing on the tombstone, so I flew to her office, knocked on the door and walked into a real drama. She had manuscripts stacked on her stairs, and the one at the top -- mine --she had tripped over. When recovering from a back strain in bed, she discovered she had metastatic breast cancer and closed her business. Sadly, she didn't survive another month.

There could never be an Agent Five, right? But there was. Hope springs eternal. This time it was a cerebral embolism at his desk. While reading the first chapter of my manuscript. I took some comfort from the fact that I was improving -- now only a few pages were sufficient to kill off agents.

No surprise I took a respite from seeking representation. The writing went on, as it always must, and it didn't seem so bad not to have an agent pounding the streets to sell my stuff. Maybe I was just one unlucky cookie or could be this was my fate from the time I bawled my first breath. Or maybe it was something more sinister. Some evil force Jerry Falwell had ranted about from his pulpit. Then a surprise. Agent Six called me out of the blue, had seen my previously submitted work somewhere and was over the moon about one of my commercial novels. Auction time. Praise and encouragement. Wow sort of. Caution hung over me like a rain cloud. She was working hard, some good responses coming in, and then she celebrated her agency's success with a Girls Only luncheon at a chic LA eatery. Hot day, sunglasses and a sundress with bare shoulders. Her buddy leaned across the table and noticed a curious black spot on Agent Six's shoulder. "Hey, you should really have that checked out. Melanoma can kill, you know." It did. Number Six bit the dust like all the others.

This latest demise was such a rarity that it called for some deep introspection. Firstly, I had broadened my sphere so I was now a death plague from Coast to Coast And agents only needed to peruse a page or two to be stricken by the Grim Reaper operating under my pen name. What the fug was I supposed to do? I considered checker at Walmart, jive dance instructor, dog walker and cafeteria worker. But I was a writer, and writers only had one chance for fulfillment -- writing.

Then a chance encounter on a business trip to Florida led me to Agent Seven. Before I signed the contract and allowed myself a tittle of excitement, I checked her health status and her religious persuasion. No suicides or mysterious deaths in her family line. So I took a chance. I definitely did not tell her about the doomed agents preceding her. And so far, she lives and breaths every day. For now anyway. I have heard rumors the Bubonic Plague is making a comeback due to Climate Change, rat infestations and such. So I'm hedging my bets on her surviving my career. It makes me write faster and avoid walking under ladders or petting the neighbor's Bombay black pussy cat.

It's all too grim, hilarious and unreal to be true, so I have chosen the obvious solution for an author poorly grounded in serious thought and written about it with all the plausible and implausible mysteries revealed. It's called SLAP HAPPY, and it'll be out this fall.

We all know what gatekeepers are in the publishing world. If you've ever written something you consider to be pretty good -- which means better than 70% of what you see on the shelves in your genre -- then you have a good idea of what it takes to get over, around and through these guardians of the publishing world.

I confess I was very naive at the start. I pictured something like the New York office where Jack Nicholson sat as a line editor at some swanky house like Penguin or Random House. That movie made a great impression on me.. Agents were writers' Mother Hens, scurrying around setting up book signings, TV appearances, dinners with celebs, coddling and coaxing cranky authors on their way to world renown. But, alas, that turned out to be only in Hollywood fantasies. In the real world, as I soon discovered, talent alone, beautifully crafted prose, burning issues brought to light, painstaking research and labor and creative sparks of near genius were definitely not the deciding factor for success in the literary world.

Gatekeepers held all the cards at the beginning. The whole process of going from creative spark to completed work began by knocking on the door of some reader/intern at Agent X's office. These were all invisible people at first --just names and bios with maybe a face photo.

So you scanned the agency blurbs and sent off your opus with a light heart. Surely it would be treated with a modicum of care and considered fairly. Then when the silence echoed through the weeks and months until form letters churned out by the zillions began to clutter up your spam file, you figured it out. Submitting your writing to an agency is no different than showing up at a chorus cattle call. Your chances of making it through the selection cuts are about one in a trizillion when you add it all up. Forget reading all the How Tos and Tips You Need to Sign with an Agent. The best tip I learned from all those lean years? Expect nothing from a gatekeeper with their ink still wet on their English Lit diploma, or an Agent with less time and patience for generic newbies than a truck stop waitress working a double shift.

The only person on the planet that can navigate through the Book of the Dead is you. Meet people, hang out wherever writers, agents, buyers and readers hang out. Avoid groups of wannabes who have been working for ten years on the third chapter of their masterpiece War and Peace, the Sequel. Be brazen in promoting yourself. Always remember that no matter how we prize our craft, it is always about the dollar, the drum that wants beating. We caress our creative souls but cater to the forces that lead us down a commercial path.