We have two more installments before the GASP third anniversary of FXXK WRITING here at Flash Fiction Online! All I can say is that next year I will try a more considered approach. For the past three years I’ve written largely reactionary pieces, though some with deep time and thought behind them. But I wanted to try something different for year four. So let me get my ramble on before the door closes in September.
I love this video by Larry Brown, author of grit lit novels like Joe, Father and Son, and the collection Big Bad Love (turned into a cool movie with a Tom Waitsy soundtrack). He discusses his ignorance and naivety as a young writer: learn to write novels, get checks from New York, be a big deal. Did NOT happen that way. If you’d read the first novel and hundred short stories he wrote, “You would have to say I had no talent. You wouldn’t have had any other choice. They were that bad.” And yet with the grim determination that helped him survive as a firefighter while working seven days a week doing hard labor, he put in the time to get better. When he died in 2004, he was considered among the best of his peerage. In the video, the phrase he and his wife had for success was “making it.”
That hit me.
My phrase for the porn dream of financial success is BIG TIME, a phrase born out of vaudeville and associated with the amount of actual stage time you had in the show: big time had a lot; small time little. Me? Prefer a bombastic performance term? MERCY!
At first blush, “making it” is less dramatic and more economical. But it’s the other definition that strikes me as most profound. Unlike Big Time, Making It involves the act of creating something. Making It depends on definition of success. And between the two lies the heartstrings of most writers, pulled taut as a trapeze. They want to make it (the work) and have the work Make It (be successful).
Success is a fickle creature that suffers from mission creep in daydreams. So when HEX-RATED was released, I kept my ideas of success humble. Yes, I attached a number to it. And for a long time I didn’t know if my and Night Shade Press’s efforts would lead to that success.
Last month I got my royalty statement.
I exceeded my success by a factor of two, and within the first six months.
I’m almost as pleased of that metric as of making the damn thing itself.
I’m promoting the sequel, BLACK LOTUS KISS, and am hopeful for the future. Whatever comes next, money, marbles, or chalk, I made the book and I made my success. I hope it continues. The series is a blast, and as much fun as HEX-RATED is, I think BLACK LOTUS KISS raised my game. Because I subscribe to a particular view of writing pulp fiction.
There are authors who work in these genres who give 110% and try to rise above the pale, folks who found freedom in the gutter and then chose to elevate it even in their roughest work. Patricia Highsmith. Charles Willeford. Dashiell Hammett. C. L. Moore. David Goodis. I remember an interview with Philip K. Dick, where he discussed his earliest and quickest hack work in science fiction. He admitted that it was garbage, but, and I’m paraphrasing (since the book I read with this quote is sitting in the stacks of Scott Library at York University and you’d have to cast a spell or pay a mint to have me drag myself back to that stoney lonesome of an alma mater) . . . “Yes, it’s crap, but even in the crap I’m giving you 100%! I’m doing the best to make crap good! I’m giving it everything I have!”
Dick, Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich and others in the SF and Crime Genre took the freedom of subject matter in the lurid pages of degenerate fiction and tried to make art. The best of them did so with aplomb. They’re the target for me. No matter how bizarre or dark or lurid or vile or insipid the subject matter or standing, I’m daring to use it to make really good art. I think that’s important. I don’t subscribe to the idea that all art is the same or all of it is subjective. I think, like Larry Brown said, no one is born to be a writer. But if you’re willing to suffer and put in the time, you can figure it out.
While the fates tussle with the Brimstone Files, I go back to the first version of “making it.” In off-hours, when no one is looking, I’m making the next book.
It’s different from Brimstone in many ways. But I could not have written it without it. Lawrence Block noted that all books take your entire life to write, including the previous books. And that every book that comes out is the one that is meant to be next, whether it’s brilliant, shit, or a success despite its weaknesses. Since that theory is hard to disprove, I’ll run with it.
My next book is a product of Brimstone, my four Kindle novels, the six I wrote to learn, the three I wrote to start (the kind that would have you say I, too, had no talent). It’s full of my favorite things, themes, and ideas. It is the hardest and easiest book I’ve written yet. I’m breaking new ground for me and trying to build a better career by being a better writer. For some, that’s career suicide. For others, it’s a recipe for success. My goal is to make the book and then make as many fans as I can from those who love Brimstone and those who don’t yet know me.
Will it be Big Time?
Will I have my Porn Dreams Crushed Again?
Will I Make It?
Will it Make it?
You can only make it if you make it.
BLAM! MIND BLOWN!
Join the Brimstone Revolution and support Jay’s desire to continue writing for a good payday by buying HEX-RATED and Pre-ordering BLACK LOTUS KISS today! Order now and receive a thank you the next time Jay runs into you at Denny’s!
© 2018 Jason S. Ridler