The Gonzo Journals
January 19th, 2023
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after fifteen years of playing the publishing game, it’s that you’re your own best friend. I know this sentence looks weird, but it’s proper English. Placing two similar words next to one another that are the bane of American social media’s intelligence rating must’ve caused heads to explode. Pardon me while I pause to enjoy the various popping sounds…
That was nice.
Like bubble wrap, but with more blood and eyeballs.
I began my publishing journey in 2007. I was in the midst of penning my first book – yes, literally “penning” – when I caught the attention of a Dallas area goth magazine. They gave me a monthly column and I wrote about all things paranormal and creepy. Ninety days later, the magazine shut down printing operations and became “online only”. It didn’t last too damn long after that. Asking someone from the 2007 Dallas goth community to read was silly. Especially since the cover wasn’t decorated with symbols from The Crow or The Nightmare Before Christmas and sold at Hot Topic.
Not long after that, I shipped – yes, literally printed and shipped – my first novel to various publishers and crossed my fingers. Thankfully, a “middle of the road” traditional publisher in New York City snagged it. Soon after that, my novel was being sold in brick & mortar bookstores and various discount stores like Wal-Mart. I even remember an old friend of mine coming across a copy in an Alabama Target store, snapping a photo, and sending it to me via MySpace. Dear god, MySpace. A year later, I released my second book, but the publishing house closed its doors soon after. The early 2000’s were tough times. To be quite honest, this country went to shit on September 11th, 2001, and it’s never recovered. It probably never will.
A year later, I was contracted by a small press to release my very first work of fiction. I was conned into paying a literary agent a hefty sum but had visions of greatness as I signed the check. They did the bare minimum and faded into obscurity. Lesson learned. Never give them the money up front. Make them work for it. They have your art and there’s money to be made. All they have to do is get off their ass. Good luck with that, though. NEVER pay to play. NEVER.
It was 2015 when I finally decided to place my fate into my own hands. Self-publishing was beginning to take off and a few people were successful at doing so. Then I got the call. A local woman worked for a literary agent based out of the UK and he persuaded me to give him a shot. He’d been in the business for a while and was even credited for writing episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. Neat, but I had been burned before. Against my better judgement, I said yes. Life’s a journey, not a destination, right? I wanted to buy the ticket and take the ride. That was right about the time when I filed for a divorce from my wife.
Now, if you’re a writer and you take anything at all away from this post, this is it! Pay attention.
Since my ex-wife was the great niece of Lon Chaney Jr., she had Hollywood connections in the family. An entertainment lawyer made addendums to the divorce papers. From that moment on, I owed her 30% of royalties from anything I’d published while we were together, dating & married. Apparently, she was my “muse” and that means something in fucking Hollywood. If anything, she made my writing career harder by bickering with me every time I’d go into my writing studio rather than sitting in the living room and observing her watch television in a hoodie. I know that’s a long sentence but ‘ll be goddamned. I took all my works off the market and started my writing career completely over in 2016. Almost a decade wasted.
Soon after that, I was offered a freelance gig with a local newspaper, given my own weekly column in the print paper, and a monthly column in a print magazine. They even gave me a press pass (which I never returned). I accompanied the newspaper editor on an assignment one night and she came onto me. Of course, my dumb ass obliged. After that, I was forced to be her secret dick if I wanted my work to be published. I did so for a short while but eventually tired of being a sex slave. Again, raped by the publishing industry – literally – I zipped up my pants and took my pen elsewhere. She wasn’t even my type.
It wasn’t long when my literary agent was diagnosed with a horrible deteriorating brain disease. The agency closed and all my new UK author friends went their separate ways. Once more, I convinced myself that self-publishing was the best route to prevent any further disappointments. I should’ve listened.
I met another local author who was on the verge of co-creating a small press with an extreme horror enthusiast from out of town. They’d met at a horror con and produced this crazy idea to take the Splatterpunk community by storm. I was asked to contribute a short story to their first anthology, and, against my better judgement, I did. The book had a successful launch party and eventually won an “Anthology of the Year” award. I contributed to a second anthology, and it was nominated for a separate award. I was beginning to see a pattern of greatness and I, although slightly standoff-ish from repeated career letdowns, was starting to enjoy the community. I released another novel and novella through them. Then, my literary luck kicked in.
Introducing the pandemic…
First thing out the gate, a book review group – aka the Goodreads Soccer Moms – teamed up and bashed my newest novella, spreading their biased word all over social media. I was doomed from the start. Rather than stand against this group of likeminded idiots, the publisher hired their leader to oversee their PR. It all went downhill from there. I guess the publisher got pandemic cabin fever and his true colors began showing.
You see, my current wife and I are card carrying Democrats, super liberal, and fighters for all things right in an ever-changing world. I’m sorry if this disturbs you or even turns you away from my future work, but it is what it is. It’s what I feel is right in my heart of hearts, and I have no choice but to be true to myself and listen to that. This put a HUGE target on my forehead living in Texas.
Even though the majority of the indie horror world are liberally minded, the money man known as my publisher wasn’t. He was anti-mask, anti-vax, and a card-carrying member of the MAGA Republicans. Worst of all, the fragile wall he’d built between his personal and business life would soften when introduced to liquor. He’d get on insane Trump rants on social media and personally attack my wife about her pandemic concerns. She is immunocompromised and he didn’t seem to care much.
Eventually the publisher faded into obscurity, the community collapsed, and the brand itself was sold off. Many of the publishing files from several authors were missing and new contracts weren’t offered unless the new brains behind the outfit thought the book “fit” their new company’s vision. It didn’t matter if you had time left on your contract or not. Guess what? Yep, one of my books was on the chopping block with a year and a half left on their obligation. Again, you guessed it, I cut my losses and looked once more to the horizon with eyes locked upon self-publishing.
That brings us to today.
I’m sure I could tantalize some publisher into accepting my future works, but I’m done. Thanks to the internet, you no longer need talent to occupy the literary glory hole, just a following. I have a horrible gag reflex and two bad knees thanks to four years in the Army. Literary fellatio is not my style, man. I’m on the board of directors for a growing author con and making new friends daily. Still, I’m holding my cards close to my chest. Gonna treat this shit like the X-Files from now on. Trust no one. At least until I don’t…
Heed my warnings, writers. New and old alike. You can’t spell ‘heart’ without ‘art’, and you need to listen to your heart when it speaks to you. It knows things your fucked up brain can’t comprehend while filled to the brim with delusions of grandeur. This world is truly out to get us all, especially the creative among society. We’re special, and it’s about goddamn time we began acting that way.
The road goes on forever and the party never ends. Pour something into everything rather than everything into something. Fuck the biz. Create.
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