Friday, July 25, 2014

Thoughts On Publishing.

I don't want to get sucked into your debate.

Louis Shalako

Whether it’s the debate over traditional publishing or the whole Amazon-Hachette dispute, I don’t much like being sucked in.

I kind of resent people assuming I’m on one side or another. I don’t like it when people assume which side I am on, or try and tell me which side I should be on.

Sometimes I don’t really care at all; about who does what, and with which, and with whom, or to whom they do it.

I don’t have any major criticisms of traditional publishing. I don’t have any major criticisms of Amazon or Hachette.

Quite frankly, I don’t really give a damn.


When I write a book or story, and then publish it myself, one could say the job is done. I like that feeling.

For better or worse, I’ve accomplished my primary mission, which is to write worthwhile stories and then get them into the hands and in front of the eyeballs of readers.

If I went the traditional route, I might submit a manuscript to any number of agents or publishers.

That’s the classic theory.

When submitting a short story, the classic theory is to submit it over and over until it is sold.

If an agent accepts a book, for example, my job is still not done. The agent submits it here and there.

They call me up once a week, or once a month, or once a year and tell me what they’re doing, and ask what I’m working on.

They submit it around some more.

And even if an editor or publisher is interested, my job is still not done.

Classic theory holds that I should have written my next book at least by this point, (or more) in which case we would start a whole new process for each and every book. Some of those books might never interest a major or other traditional publisher.

And my job on the first book is still not done. There is an in-house process, one that ultimately could take many months or even years before I achieve the laudable and reasonable goal of seeing the thing on bookstore shelves. Only then could my job be said to be done, if we ignore the need to engage in at least some promotion. If we can get it. Otherwise we’re on our own, and it might be six months more before the first royalty cheque rolls in.

Nothing in my experience has really prepared me for this kind of long-term, high stakes kind of game. It’s a whole ‘nother line of thinking.

They say poor people are their own worst enemies, but there are times when immediate needs take precedence. Money coming in right now might not beat a lot more money coming in two years from now, but until one actually sells a manuscript, that’s all just pie in the sky anyways.

And there really is more than one way to skin a cat.

In the ‘classic’ theory of modern, digital self-publishing, you write, you publish, write, publish, write some more, publish some more, and then you just keep going on like that.

With appropriate choices of material and genre, over time we will build up a readership and eventually build up our own business. We do it all on our own, and in my own case, without a lot of outside or expensive help. I don’t need an IP lawyer to interpret what I’m signing, and I don’t have to worry about pleasing agents and editors, who may like the basic story but want a lot of changes when I’ve already sort of put a book behind me. Because of course I want to move onto the next project. That sort of process might be stressful and distracting from what I really want to do now.

It’s still a long-term game, but the thinking is clearer, it requires less patience. You do it in small, incremental steps. You don’t have to rely on other people, and if you don’t like the terms of service, you can just take your books down and go elsewhere.

That’s not a criticism of anybody, it’s just an observation.

But we all have our own needs, our own goals, and our own strengths and weaknesses.

Honestly, if someone had offered me a hundred thousand dollar contract for my first or second book, I would have been scared shitless. I wasn’t sure I could really write professionally at the time, and of course I would be dealing with professionals of long experience.

It might have been intimidating or something.

It says something about where I was at the time.


Friday, July 18, 2014

The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue. The Final Chapter.

"What use is a newborn baby?" Mehregan Javanmaard, (Wiki.)
Here are the previous episodes of The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue.

Part 1
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18

The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue, The Final Chapter. (19.)

Louis Shalako

Scott was knee-deep in changing diapers.

With little Eddie’s crib in the corner and the changing table right under the window, it was still an iffy thing. He’d barfed more than once doing this job. For some reason today wasn’t so bad.

“Hey, little buddy.” The squirming body kicked and fussed and Scott held onto a tiny hand, grinning from ear to ear. “Come on, help me out here.”

Eddie fussed and squirmed something awful.

It was getting on towards dinner time and Betty would be home soon. He’d better put some thought into that. Unwrapping the stinky diaper, he put that in the garbage. He rolled the kid over.

Scott mopped the poop off the kid’s backside and disposed of the wipes in the plastic garbage hamper. He took a fresh moist one and made sure Eddie’s ass was as clean as a baby’s bum.

He hummed softly to himself.

“I never thought I would live to see the day.” With a scratchy sound, the Velcro fasteners were done up and the kid was good to go.

The sound of the door came from the front of the apartment.

“Ah. Here’s your mother now.”

Scott put the baby back in the crib for the moment, although Betty would be in there soon enough.

He went out into the living room of their new two-bedroom apartment, which was looking a lot better since they had re-painted.

He never thought he’d see that come to pass, either.

Thanks to the new, ceramic, but pretty good set of used eyes the Cartiers had given him as a wedding present, there had been a moment of horror when he saw the place, really saw it for the first time.

It was hard not to think less of landlords in general, but the truth was he’d lived like that for a long time and still hated the thoughts of his old life. He had a moment of wonder.

I wonder what my old place looked like after ten or twelve years.

Aude,  (Wiki)
“Honey. I’m home.”

They smiled into each other’s eyes.

“I’m positively famished. What’s for dinner?”

Scott threw his arms wide open, put his chin down, cocked his head and grinned like there was no tomorrow.


Her laugh resonated around the room and probably in other parts of the building.

“No.” She gazed hungrily into his eyes, and then down to where Scott kept the throbbing, big red rocket hangared. “That’s dessert—I need food, real food.”

The pair clung together in a bear hug as Eddie babbled happily in his crib. Already her eyes were sliding over his shoulder and seeking out the door to Eddie’s room.

Scott sighed. He let her go.

“So, it’s like that, eh. Off you go then. See your kid.”

Once last peck from her, and then it was off to the kitchen for Scott.

A house-husband’s work is never done.


“Yes, dear?” They were already laughing and giggling in there and there was no end of nonsense from either one of them.

“Can you bring out that garbage bag when you come and I’ll take it down?”

No answer.

He would just have to live in suspense, then.

Pots and pans rattled and banged. There were some frozen pork chops, a few potatoes, and a couple of tall cans of Bud. They had the makings for salad and there were still a few soft-pack containers of formula for the baby.

They had each other, and you really couldn’t ask for much more.


About Louis Shalako

Louis Shalako began writing for community newspapers and industrial magazines. His stories appear in publications including Perihelion Science Fiction, Bewildering Stories, Aurora Wolf, Ennea, Wonderwaan, Algernon, Nova Fantasia, and Danse Macabre. He lives in southern Ontario and writes full time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What I Learned From Writing An Online Serial.

My hemorroids are killing me. Leonid Pasternak.

Louis Shalako

Having completed my online serial rendition of The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue, there are some lessons to take away from the experience.

That’s because I didn’t have the book done. I only had the first two or three chapters when I accepted this self-imposed challenge.

At the time, writing 2,000 to 4,000 words, to be published once a week, in readable form, was definitely a challenge. I was not a hundred percent sure that I could finish it at all. However, I suspected that I could.

There was only one week when I was still writing on a Friday. Most weeks, the thing was locked and loaded on Blogger by Tuesday or Wednesday. By Thursday at the latest, all set to hit the firing button at the end of the week.

This allowed me to do other things at the same time. Usually I write a thousand or two thousand words a day and my conscience is clear, right? That’s how I wrote my third mystery novel, The Art of Murder, and edited it, and published it, in thirty-four days.

But it also allowed me to focus on just exactly what needed to be done in that particular chapter, and nothing else. Bear in mind I knew roughly where the story was supposed to go, so all I had to do, page by page, and chapter by chapter, was to lay sufficient ground work for the last two or three chapters to happen. 

Everything that went before had to make sense by the time I got there.

(Betty Blue is a love story. Everything else is just set-up.)

It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece to be published as an online serial. It has to be readable, and yes, professional. It has to be fun, and more than anything, interesting. Other than that, the readers aren’t asking for all that much, but there’s plenty going on in the world and it’s nice to get away for awhile.

Chapter Nineteen, The Final Chapter, will be published Friday night. The serial came in at about 52,000 words, or a bit short for the first draft of a 60,000-word novel. But now it’s up to 59,200 words and I don’t see it going much more than that. What it is, ladies and gentlemen, is an extremely long novella or light novel.

My writing style is to wing it. Once I have the premise, the basic concept, I write by the seat of my pants. It’s a line of exploration as much as anything else. However, if you were the kind of writer who makes a time-line, and plans what will be in each and every chapter, you might find this challenge a bit easier than I did.

Brevity is King.

You would know what’s coming next when you completed a chapter, whereas I had to stop and figure it out. 

I had to ‘dead reckon’ how much time and space I had left, what sort of material was going into subsequent chapters, and basically figure out exactly what was needed, and then, write nothing more. When I had written my scenes for the week, if I had 2,500 words, I stopped. I saved a few ideas for the next episode. I made a few notes and then set it aside.

In serial form, the story is a bit thin on description, yet most chapters were at least 2,000 words and some were more like 4,000. The chapters were kind of long for online reading, and yet I brought the thing home in 19 episodes, or one less than I originally planned.

In terms of writing a novel manuscript, the experts will tell you that the thing is un-submittable by traditional publishing standards. They’ll tell you that I took my intellectual property and stood it up against the wall. 

Then I pissed all over it.

That may be true. However, education costs money, and at least I have learned how to write, which was my original goal.

A couple of more days with it, then it's done.
It was a limitation that I accepted before kicking that door in. They are not wrong. Neither am I. They have their perspective and their concerns, which are different than mine.

There are some other folks, who might also tell you that guys like me can’t write, and that we shouldn’t be writing, and that we will never succeed, and that we ought to quit.

My advice to those people is to try and develop a slightly-thicker skin, and let it roll off you like water off of a duck’s back. Bend like the reed, rather than snap like a twig.

Because it don’t mean nothing.

However, if you wanted to learn how to write a serial, the best way to do it is to write a serial. The best way to write a serial is in episodes. For each and every episode of a serial work of literature, is a work of art in its own right. It has to stand on its own, although naturally the reader is provided links to previous episodes.

The great thing about serials is the cliff-hangers. Man, do I ever love writing cliff-hangers.

It is a weird kind of discipline. It’s a performance, to go out there one night a week, have your material ready and do the gig, for better or worse, to jeers or applause. Whatever. But it’s something I had never done. Because it is a series, a longer work of art, whole, complete and sufficient unto itself, it’s different from a weekly column (which I have done) where you can tackle different subjects, week by week. A column is rarely fiction, although it may use fictive elements to get the story across.

My story writing process may differ from some other authors. I stopped writing chapters, (admittedly, one at a time) by about the fifth or sixth book. I began writing an entire novel, front to back, with scene breaks but no chapter headings or divisions. Only after the story was complete did I go back, estimate perhaps twenty-five or thirty chapters and then divide up the text using some esthetic and perceptual parameters. Psychological moments in the story are best.

So this time I had to decide, up front, usually in two or three short scenes, what was going to be in each chapter, and no more. Then I wrote it up, edited for typos, etc, and stuck it up on Blogger.

Then I could go off and write short stories, overhaul my system, or go to the beach and pretend to be cool.


So here’s the real news—if it actually happens. A year ago, I abandoned a project. It’s up to 36,000 words, and that’s a lot of effort to just walk away from.

Assuming I need a new mystery novel this year, (and I do), and assuming I want it in stores by Christmas, (and I do,) and assuming it really only takes a couple of months to write and publish such a project, then I really need to start that project pretty soon.

I need to start that by August 1, or shortly thereafter. In the meantime, I have a couple of weeks, and a kind of an incomplete zany thriller-parody that might just make a pretty good little online serial. That much material, posted once a week, two or three thousand words at a time, would give me essentially ten to twelve weeks before I absolutely must have the next chapter. Any asshole can write two or three thousand words in ten or twelve weeks, ladies and gentlemen. In the meantime, it builds site traffic, gives people something fun to read and maybe I get to learn something more along the way. (Louis is the perpetual student, ladies and gentlemen. He’s never graduated from anything in his entire life. – ed.) I haven’t really decided on that one yet, but at one time I did have some idea of where that story was supposed to be going. 

And I have a couple of weeks in hand before I worry too much about the next serious project.

I might even be able to do both at once, if I wrote like a bandit for the next couple of weeks and accepted whatever limitations are thrust upon me by an indifferent social context and the frickin’ bourgeoisie..

If you have the material, and aren’t all that worried about the fate of publishing, or what Deepak Chopra thinks of all this, then I say go for it. If not, then maybe you should be off somewhere, you know, somewhere trying to save literature and not reading this blog post.

As for me, I learned something new by doing it.

I also have my thirteenth novel.

And it’s really frickin’ good, ladies and gentlemen.

That’s the real thrill here.