Monday, 4 December 2017

Indie Author Tips #2 - Establish Routines by practicing interviews

Or The Ignorance of Being Me

When I whisper to people and my dogs that I'm a writer, I like to pretend they are interviewing me so when that time does come I can distinguish myself from the real writers out there with my well thought-out answers that appear completely spontaneous.

Invariably, one of the questions my future interviewers will ask me is what is my process? They then might barge into my psyche with all the delicacy of a whale in a tuna factory by asking me where my ideas come from.

I imagine I'd lean back all reflectively in my chair and really give this a good mental mulling. I might say something slightly condescending like 'That's a good question'. Then I'd be like BAM! THERE'S YOUR ANSWER! and that answer becomes VIRAL and next summer I am receiving an Nobel Prize for an award they made up especially for that answer which of course is given to me.


Anyways, I like to really get my write-on with a good and loud adrenaline song. I crack open TNT by AC/DC, a song which needs some re-introductions in hockey rinks across the nation. I don't know which song it could replace... maybe this one which admittedly is a good song for when the home team gets scored on and is indicative of our kinder, gentler emotionally fragile NHL.

 So once I've got the TNT, oi, oi, oi in my veins, I look around for something else to do - usually I start in the bathroom and list off my unfinished projects that are 95% finished, which coincidentally feels about the same for a lot of the stories. I should look into that correlation.

Then, with an unneeded coffee in hand, I wander back down to my desk and consider what to attack at that moment. For this, a little Queen/David Bowie Under Pressure helps. Often it is a purge of the the Daddy Longleg spiders (fun fact; actually aren't spiders) trying to exist in every corner of my room. Next, I might wonder what it would be like to have some type of debilitating disease. Yesterday, I learned of something called xylophagia which is obsessive eating of paper. So then I might google that or an in-depth analysis of Birdman, a subtle nod to the heading of this post. It's really anyone's guess at that point.

Thankfully, I have Wake-Up Call by Maroon 5 next on my playlist which again reminds me to focus on my original intention, which was doing some productive writing. I refocus and open up some word documents, look into my heart and wonder why I'm not getting any younger. Follow that up with When I Grow Up by Garbage. I regress a little, think Garbage is an awful title for an indie book writer but a ironically great one for a book of poetry. Because art likes that type of irony...

Follow up that song with You're So Vain, the original by Carly Simon. It grounds me once again, reminding me I'm not nearly as good as I think I am so don't get too far ahead of myself by doing fake press interviews for my dogs. This would've been fun to play as the first dance at my wedding. But I'm not that brave and my wife, god (and I) love her, sometimes gets me and sometimes doesn't. With the betting odds of being only 50-50 I think I did the wise thing by not suggesting it. But.

Finally, right before I end this blog post and get back to my true intentions, my fingers nicely warmed up, I plug into Ahead By A Century by the Tragically Hip. This is a reminder, self-consciously deprecating, that while many people might not get the concepts or story lines of a world undone by legalizing marijuana, maybe in a century people will look back and say 'Wow, that jay royston guy, he sure nailed it. The world was actually destroyed because some guy in the Rocky Mountains invented a marijuana that could hypnotize us into mindless drones through the airwaves."

Then some literary critic or crazed super fan will spend too much money on a replica of the Nobel Prize I won a century earlier for the inaugural 'Saw It Coming' award and find this post hidden away in the Internet and all this reading would have been worth it.

not life size.
My dogs have now wandered off and fallen asleep. Time to get my Karma on...

PS - Thanks for reading. I'm also now a Twitter virgin looking for someone to teach me what to do  - @metjayroyston

Friday, 24 November 2017

Indie Author Tips #1 - Self-promote on Social Media

I'm supposed to be writing. I'm also supposed to be marketing. I'm supposed to be doing research to qualify to go back to school; show job opportunities, industry growth, etc. I'm supposed to fix up an RESP mess that dates back nearly four years. I'm supposed to clean the house, walk the dogs, just be a good overall person in general. Plus, maintain good hygiene.

None of the above is easy. I'm not about lists. I prefer attainable goals. I prefer staying under the radar but love being in yours. I love writing on my own terms which is painful and slow and counter-productive to be self-sustainable in the craft. If I could (and sometimes I do), I'd concentrate on writing what comes into my head, a self-therapy of why who I am where I am because frankly, I've been confused since high school.

I made choices out of practicality, impulse and convenience, not necessarily out of some overall plan. I've jumped the gun on projects and jobs I never should have started. And under it all, I believed if I only tried hard enough, the planets would align and everything would make sense. And you know what, if I'm being honest, sometimes they did. For a little while.

But to follow a plan, that's tough for me. This post isn't spontaneous, it is part of 'the plan' I should follow according to the 'Indie Authors For Dummies' forums I follow. I'm supposed to create a following, to toss out posts like these on social media to try and remind you who I am and that I write books for you to purchase at selected institutions. Then I hope you like or link this post and your friends will check me out, like what I write and like me and so on and so on. Then they follow my page on Facebook or Twitter and I get a Netflix series deal by Christmas.

I simply don't care for self-promotion and I'm trying to adjust to a world of selling myself.

True story. I published a magazine way back in the 90s. It was hard, hard, underfunded work and I was severely under-educated in the field. I taught my way through it. I juggled house bills to pay my printers, I bought bus tickets to different cities and slept on friends' couches. The next day I'd walk all around these cities doing distribution, trying to build that small readership base. Then we were sort of evicted from our house (long irrelevant story). I started working other jobs to make the bare minimum of payments on my increasing VISA. I was in my mid-twenties and still full of cynical hope.

I remember one crowning moment; a film industry book store that was in Gastown, Vancouver. Biz Books. Owned by two women, one named Patricia. Anyways, I'm at the end of my nut, barely keeping my shit together and I go to drop off the critically panned (in my head) 'Monster Truck Film Issue'. I go in, tell her I have the latest issue and she (god forbid) opens it up and begins to read the inside pages RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

Now that has never happened. And you know what happened next? She laughed at one small, buried little joke in the legalese you find in the header of all magazines. And she noticed another joke and laughed. It was awkward. Then she asked about a letter in Chinese I'd printed. I told her the truth, we didn't know what it said but it came to our address so we included a note with it asking for a Chinese translator. She absolutely loved it and called her partner over so they could enjoy the magazine together, again, right in front of me. It was surreal. 

But in that moment I realized I loved I wrote something which made someone laugh weeks later. It was an odd rush at the time, a brief belief that maybe, with a little more time I could make this work. But as my bank account and self-confidence was stressing, it was too little too late. That was twenty years ago.

Now I'm in my forties and yes, I am still full of cynical hope. Travelling by buses and crashing on couches has been changed by the Internet. I'm still trying to adapt to that. Yet it's still the same thing, spending time away from what I love (writing) to do something I'm not comfortable with (self-promotion).

Next, as part of the 'master plan', I'm going to post this on Facebook and hope that you, dear reader, will like this page so your friends whom I don't know and may never meet will check me out. Maybe they respect your tastes enough they will like my Facebook page, download a free sample of my work here and then maybe buy a bigger sample here.

Full disclosure, I then get a small royalty from that sale - about 30%, paid at the end of the fiscal year.

And if you and they like that sample you all can follow me on my new Twitter account here where I will start posting other entertaining shit because that is what life is all about.

Being entertained.

Good times.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Breaking Dad #3

Breaking Dad 3

A friend of mine has a six week old boy, his second child. His daughter is two years old. Dad is always tired. So is Mom. Neither child is sleeping through the night. In an effort to soothe his older child, he tries to sleep with her on her baby bed but he doesn’t fit. If he leaves, she starts up again. And if she is sleeping, his baby is awake. It’s a nightmare of quick naps, thin patience and long cries. I can’t speak for the babies. 

He told me this with bags under his eyes and I laughed in sympathy.  Memories of warming bottles at 4am, of falling asleep on the couch with our first baby on my chest rose. If there was a peep out of the baby monitor, one of us would be ready. Honestly, it was usually Mom.  But there were occasions when Mom was simply too tired and it was up to me to step up to give Mom’s breasts and mind that little extra rest she so desperately needed. Sometimes we would play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ of who was going to get up. Other times, we’d both lie in bed pretending not to hear the baby monitor. We waited, hoped the baby would go back to sleep or the other would give up first and go feed the baby.

In the days it was not much better. Both the babies had troubles falling into a sleep routine, as did we. And they cried. Oh boy, did they cry. Bottles didn’t help, burping, changing, extra blankets, less blankets, pacifiers, rarely seemed to help. I’m sure every Dad and Mom can relate to that frustrated feeling of having done everything you can think of to quiet a screaming child and still the crying continues.

And then we found something miraculous… Baby Einstein DVDs.

Seriously, I don’t know the magic behind it but I believe those DVDs are the reason why many parents today are still together. Once we put a Baby Einstein DVD on and the little sheep or lion sock puppet appeared, it was library quiet. The kids would be memorized. There was no plot, no dialogue, just pictures of toys and shiny, happy people. For added serenity and sanity, the music is mostly classical music, from Beethoven to Mozart and those other guys... anyways, it's baby whisperer magic. Try it, get some sleep. 

Now some parents out there might be skeptical, they might be on the ‘no babies should watch TV’ train and think that I am simply bad parenting. However, this anecdote isn’t for those people. This is for those Dads (and Moms) who are at the end of their sanity, who are still trying to figure out how to make their babies stop crying. Do what you have to do. 

Admittedly, this is only one story of what worked for us. But for those Dads trying to quiet a baby at 4am and simply want some quiet, what do you have to lose? Go to the thrift store or youtube and find Baby Einstein. You're already not sleeping. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Breaking Dad 2 - Road Tripping

Breaking Dad 2- Road Tripping

-jay royston

Road Trip.

Very few words bring a clenching to my chest like ‘road trip’ does. Family road trips are a fundamental right of parental passage, a litmus test of patience, dedication and perseverance.

Years ago, I spent many hours driving here and there across Western Canada. I was young and lacked career ambitions which made me a perfect customer to gas stations and roadside coffee diners across this great land of ours. I saw cities and mountains, lakes and oceans. It was a great time to feel alive, to feel free as a bird as the song goes.

And then I became a parent and I now have about as much free time as a lone rooster in a hen house. Many times I have considered what it would be like to just go ‘for a drive’ without having to remember to pick up milk or tomorrow is garbage day or worry about what time I should be home so I can enjoy some moments with the kids before they fall asleep because frankly, I love to hate those moments I secretly love.

Now instead of it being simply me and the highway, it’s me and my wolf pack. And instead of my one bag of essentials it is now eight bags of essentials, divided into really essentials and the not-so-essential-that-it-needs-to-be-in-the-front bags of essentials. 

Plus my wife insists on cleaning the car before every trip. I always argue it is a pointless endeavor as by the time we stop for our first break, it looks like we have lived in it for three months. That is because the kids pull out every activity we have packed for the eight hour drive and are then bored with them before the first gas station fill up. It doesn’t matter - road trip.

And while I used to spend lucid moments driving, admiring and contemplating how amazing this country is, I now contemplate what my daughter means when she says behind me that she ‘got some weird stuff in her underpants’. Music which I would play for hours on end now barely makes it through two songs without me having to turn it down to answer some random question directed at me from the back seat from one of my baby wolves.

But these are the moments future memories are made of. I have to remember road trips are a right of passage for parents and children alike. Children are supposed to complain about it being too hot/too cold/too far. Parents are supposed to tell them too bad/not long/and make them play ‘look at that’.

My father really enjoyed playing ‘look at that’. He would say it without explaining what it was we were supposed to look at, as if it was blatantly obvious that mountain in the distance was any different than the other mountains in the distance. All we usually saw was the tops of the trees along the highway. If we were really lucky, he would point out a dead animal on the side of the road; ‘look at that, a dead bear,’ he would say as he drove slowly by it, allowing us a close-up view of nature in all it's gory glory.

I don’t point out animal fatalities to my kids though. There are things we learn from our parents; they were our number one teachers, just as we are to ours. Hopefully, we remember those things we didn’t like from our youth such as staring at broken, dead animals on the side of the highway. And we remember not to tell our kids to ‘look at that’ as if it was the reason why we are on a road trip in the first place.

We go on road trips because we are family and we must all suffer adventures together. At least that is what I tell my kids.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Breaking Dad 1 -Baby Dragons

Baby Dragons.

Netflix had been on long enough. I told my eight year old daughter to shut off her show that long ago stopped teaching how to train your dragon and do something else. In her typical child-like summer boredom, she said there was nothing else to do.

“Fine,” I said, in full-on Dad mode. “I’d like you to go to your room and write a story.”

 To make this part short, she went to her room and found something else to do as I made dinner.
Over some classic Dad cooking, I asked if she wanted to do anything for her day camp talent show happening the next day. She said her talent was going to be ‘audience participant’ and simply sit and watch the other kids perform.

I asked how her story was going and she said she didn’t have any ideas for one so she had played with her dragons.

“I have an idea,” I prompted, “what about a story about how one of your dragons tried to bite off your Dad’s foot which is why I am in this cast?”

She looked at me funny, mainly because she knew I really sprained my ankle in a freak trampoline fight accident with a ball that more safety-conscious Dads would probably have said "get that off there before someone gets hurt.". 

“Uh, I don’t think so,” she said in the same voice her mother would use, “you stepped on a ball.”

“Well, I want to read your story before bedtime, so you better get on it.”

At bedtime, I hobbled into her room and read her short story. It was good; there was a beginning, middle and end. It was about dragons but no mention of me or my ankle cast. I could live with that.

“You know,” I said, as an idea came to me along with the thought I may be the greatest Dad in the world “you could read this to your day camp for the talent show.”

“I can’t do that, Dad,” she said, shaking her head. “Writing isn’t a talent.”

I went immediate poker face. We all know kids have this way of really cutting deep into someone’s psyche, but they can hide their social rudeness behind their age and innocence. “How come you are so fat?” I’ve heard younger children ask, “Why are you so old?” another question to a relative. It happens.

Writing isn’t a talent?

I saw her side; talent shows tend to focus on active performances; singing, dancing, gymnastics. There aren’t many popular shows for the many other sides of culture; writing, drawing, painting. 
I believe my daughter has lots of talents. Parents should notice the natural talents their children have and encourage it.

“Writing is a talent,” I told her, trying to hide the hurt in my thoughts because I am obviously biased. 
“Creating is a talent. I’m sure a lot of kids would like to hear your story. And you know what? I bet it would make some of them want to write their own as well.”

I wish I could end this story with how I wanted it to end. I want to say she went to that Talent Show, stood up in front of her classmates after they sang and danced. I wished I could say she told her simple story of a dragon bullied by other dragons until she was helped by a girl who made her brave enough to scare away the other dragons.

But she didn’t stand up and read that story for her talent show.

Maybe next time she will. All I can do as a father is to remind her anything she creates is a talent be it writing, painting, or building. 

It doesn’t have to be what all the other dragons are doing.