"People feel no obligation to buy books. It isn't their fault. Art seems cheap to them, because almost always it is cheap. . . . People stick any kind of stuff together between covers and throw it at them."
~ SHERWOOD ANDERSON
I often relate the story that I began writing to entertain others around the age of ten, fifth grade, when I was encouraged by a gifted teacher to develop a talent she thought she saw. That means I have been at it for 57 years; 58 next month. I never managed to get published through the traditional route, a publishing house, and started putting out the Beyond the Rails series through a self-publishing imprint in 2013, as I noted. Since then, every successful author I've read (and I've read a lot of them in my efforts to crack the code) tells me that an author in today's literary world "must" have a website.
That seems like reasonable advice for someone whose success, if not their very livelihood, depends upon public recognition in this age where every self-important trash picker has a forty-page spread on his bottlecap collection, every cat that licks himself appears in a much ballyhooed video, and anyone who trips in public finds himself a star on YouTube, but what, exactly, belongs here?
What is Jack Tyler, self-published author read by dozens, providing here that you can't get anywhere else? I am absolutely certain in my flighty, disorganized mind that not one person reading this needs a writing lesson from me. If I was selling a thousand books a week, I might have something valuable to share. The fact is that, given my current rate of sales, I don't expect to be around to see my 1,000th sale. Similarly, no one needs grammar lessons from a guy who left high school after eleventh grade to go do his part for freedom, democracy, and neo-colonialism on the far side of the world. Those experiences contribute to my writing style, but they don't add up to a thing that I can tell you to make you a better writer. So, what's the point of this blog?
I have the website. You're reading it. When you check in with the basic URL, you arrive at the Welcome page. There you find information about the stories, links to reviews, some comments, links to the websites of friends who are also writers, and even the backstory of how BtR came to be in the first place. It would be a simple matter to include a little section near the top to detail any interesting events that transpired in the previous week's writing activity, thus raising the question of why I even need this blog. I spend a considerable amount of time looking for things to blog about, then spend a day when I could be driving the narrative of my next grand adventure putting together a blog post instead, a blog post that is seen by a dozen, and occasionally commented on by an individual or two.
All of which puts me in mind of the Law of Diminishing Returns. The point of this footprint on the internet is keep a presence before potential readers. This is done by the fact of the site's existence, but is the blog necessary? Maybe after I'm selling those thousand books a week I'll have something to say to readers and writers alike, but does an author in my situation have any business, really, in coming here every week and diluting the broth, as it were, with a couple of thousand words that is read by less people than it takes to play a game of baseball?
None of that is to say that I'm going to shut down my blogging without further notice. I constantly consider shutting it down as the drain on my resources that it is, but I dream of a day when people will come here to have lengthy conversations about the nuances of literature; in the current reality, I'm usually only treated to a lot of comments when I piss somebody off. Not the desired effect. So I'm looking for something to say here that will be of interest to BtR fans, and fans of adventure fiction in general, something that, God help me, might generate some of those stimulating conversations. I've considered turning this to a book review site, but it doesn't help an author whose work I've found uplifting if I post a review here in this suburban cul-de-sac of the internet; that item would do him a much greater service placed on Goodreads or Amazon. The only other thing I've thought of that might be appropriate here is background material on my own books, things that you can't get anywhere else... And then hope that some day, someone will find it interesting!
Along that line, here is a photograph of the flyleaf of my first BtR notebook, the one where I outlined the characters, built the world that they inhabit, and plotted out the action of their first adventures. One thing I needed to have solid in my mind was a detailed and thorough understanding of their home-away-from home, their fortress, their refuge, and so I took my meager artistic talents to the 8x5 page to create the nurturing confines of the motor airship Kestrel:
In project news, Beyond the Rails III: Slayer of Darkness, is coming along nicely. It is planned to be 24 chapters, and I have finished 16 in draft format. There will be a rewrite to tighten the prose, run down and exterminate any plot holes and other inconsistencies, and incorporate any improvements suggested by my alpha-readers, a wonderful bunch of critical eyes that I cannot praise enough! Then comes a line edit, being a slow read to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation (blechh!), and a final edit to get everything into publishing format. So how far away is the finished product? I think a reasonable estimate is something on the order of six months.
What comes after that? I have begun to flirt with the idea of reconstructing Stingaree, a story of a young man out of his depth as he inherits a gambling den and whorehouse in the Stingaree district of old San Diego. Of course, it will have a steampunk flavor! I've just begun to make some sketchy concept notes... Maybe they'll appear on the blog some day! I also intend, over the next few days, to post samples of both BtRIII and Stingaree. Watch for the tabs to appear above.
The other site I'm a founding member of, The Punk Fiction Writers' Guild, gets even less traffic than this one. It's been over a week since anyone has commented, and over a month since a new post was contributed. That's pretty thin for a site shared by nine authors, and while it may be too early to write the death certificate, it's definitely on life support. A decision will have to be made there sooner rather than later.
As is the case with this blog. I don't know yet where it's going, but I'm going to have to figure it out. This has become a lot of work to go to for such a tiny return, and I'm going to have to assess whether it would be more effective for me to give it up in exchange for an extra writing day. I won't do anything sudden or without putting some serious thought into it, but I also am no longer going to hold myself to a post every Thursday whether I have anything to say or not. I'd love to have some input from some of you about what you'd like to see in an author's blog. Give me a good idea or two, and we'll take them aboard and see where they lead us!
Is anyone out there...?
~ Blimprider ~