Dead Bird Gets The BookWorm

cropped-level9paranoialogo.jpgIn the first few weeks after putting a book into the world, I’ll admit there is very little I won’t consider in the name of pushing my blather into the psyche of friends and strangers. I used the word “consider” because ultimately there are umpteen-million services (free or paid) that all claim to be the magic bullet you need to climb the charts. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m suspicious of most, as that part of the self-publishing world has become a repugnant place for the shysters who pray upon the desperate get-read-quick-get-rich-quick hoards. Like the paid programming infomercials of the ’90s that promised steady income via tiny classified ads, the internet is littered with Don Lapre style boasts about how to get read and reviewed fast.

If you aren’t reading this because you, like me, have managed to make it to even the fifth or sixth page of Google search results for things like, “blogs that write reviews for the self-published,” than you might be utterly put-off by the idea that the world is abundant with writers teeming at the gills to feed the review machine that Amazon has created. I won’t go into too much, if any, detail on how that all works, and some of its absurdities, because I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. Without them, I’d likely have one-hundred or more paperbacks in the trunk of my car that I’d long given up on hocking to local bookstores and co-workers. All you need to know is that for a new book, getting read and reviewed, mostly reviewed, feeds the machine. More reviews, higher the better, but any of it will eventually work your sweet words into the system that shovels suggestions to buyers at a better clip. Or so I’ve been told.

I returned from an early morning run yesterday, my brain spinning delightfully as is usually the case. Random bits of inspiration all vying for my attention, colliding with each other, often this is the moment where the most original of ideas are born. The pattern to my thinking at this time is far less structured, and the absurd often gets married to the logical. So it’s really no surprise that I hatched the ultimate plan of plans. Let’s call it the Stieg Larsson approach: basically, it became crystal-clear to me that, in fact, the best and easiest way to get But I Love You screaming up the charts, would be to be dead. Yes, yes—the book still has to be good for that plan to work. Trust me, my own assessment of the writing might be the only thing keeping me from seriously contemplating an alternative version of that plan that is far more attractive and egomaniacal: FAKE MY DEATH! Ah-Ha!

Now, I’ve no idea the lengths one must go to in order to successfully fake their demise in the most public of fashions, but I can assure you that it might be on par with the effort it takes to get people to part with the price of a cup of coffee to take a chance on your book. And, the best part of faking my death as opposed to actually dying (beside not being dead), is that I’d get to see the impact of those efforts as well. Would the news of my demise make a significant difference? Could I manage to log into one of the half-dozen or so cruel author-helper-sites that Amazon so dutifully puts into our hands to watch our babies flounder in real-time? Doubtful. And even if I did, from some internet cafe in the deepest regions of Columbia, I feel certain that my Amazon author-rank tracking graph would still leave me feeling utterly defeated. Hourly updates, seriously guys?

Truth is, I’ve no idea how to fake my death to begin with. The truthier-truth is, I won’t be Googling it to find out because I’m certain that the very act would bring black suits to my door quickly and put a white padded room into my future.

Oh, also, just between us, it’s interesting how much less I like poking fun about my own real-world ending now that I’m six or seven or eight weeks removed from having a son. So, you know, wood knocks and what not. After all, it’s just a book.

 

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Good Ol’ Scaly-Six-Toes Rosch

Some stories require a little TMI in order to pack a true punch. And thus, I’ll have to cop to this: I have possibly either eczema or psoriasis. It drives me f’in crazy even as skin poachers from the east to west coasts tell me, “Oh, yours is very mild.” Easy for them to say–I suspect they all save the best treatments (eczema, acne, rosacea) for themselves in order to create some sort of bizarre ruling class of super-skinned Dr. Zizmors. They are oh-so-fond of telling me things like, “You should try and relax more, don’t stress as much, don’t take hot showers, get a bit more vitamin D.” Some years ago the woman who delivered this information and other profound thoughts on how to control it finished all of these informative tid-bits with comma sugar, baby, or honey. It was a good trick–she had me nodding along like a calf being led to slaughter. “Keep the eczema-ed reeling,” they say, in their secret posh clubhouses where they rub themselves in only the finest working lotions and creams.

The only true cure I’ve ever come upon was living in the sweet, sweet humidity and sunshine that Costa Rica provided me. Add that to the list of reasons I wish we’d never left. So far, Los Angeles hasn’t gifted me the same. So two days ago, you’d have found me making my case to yet another dermi in suite 101 of one of those classic health professional office blocks. A nice lady–aren’t they all–and I went in simply to show her the flare-up and ask that she kindly deliver me a script for the same spray I’ve been using for years with some success. It should have been a transaction as easy as ordering my daily Venti iced-coffee at StarBucks (though I’ve found that to be considerably more trying so far away from the East-Coast work ethic I admire more and more daily). Did I leave after just a short visit with the means to a medicine I so desperately craved? No.

Somehow, and as a gratefully recovering alcoholic I’ll take my part in it all, I let her talk me into experimenting with the supposedly latest and greatest snake oil. “You can just grab it at the pharmacy across the street. Super easy, and here’s a card that will let you pay nothing for the first batch.” She said. She didn’t use the word “batch.” But I am. Call it whatever you want to call it, doesn’t change the fact that the pharmacy she sent me to had to special order it. At the time this was all happening, I hadn’t the time to process it as anything more than a terrible inconvenience. With the gift of hind-sight and a quick recap of the days events with my favorite suspicious aloysius conversationalist, Ariele, I came to realize what I’d really just been signed up for:

Have you seen the film Side Effects? Doesn’t really matter. All you really need to know is: Big Pharma loves money. And part of their plan to get more of it is to sell you drugs. That’s not being conspiratorial, that’s just business. Yes sir, they’ve got something that will help you, and like the stink under your arms, they’d prefer what ever ails you never really go away because that’d prevent you from being a repeat customer. I don’t begrudge them that. That’s business. That’s as much on us for not doing due-diligence in taking care of our own shit before it becomes problematic.

Now then, back to me–this whole damn site is about me, save a post or two, and here’s what I’m getting at: My new dermi, like any other doctor, probably likes money too. And I’m quite positive that I’ve only been given this new miracle cure for free, on her recommendation, because somewhere, someone is paying her to make that selection. My tried and true Clobex isn’t filling her coffers with new shoe money. I saw her shoes. They didn’t look cheap. What really tipped me off to the fact that I’d become yet another guinea pig was when she asked me to return in just three short weeks to see how it was going with this new elixer. “Odd,” I thought. “Usually I just spray a few times a day for a few weeks and it goes away, what’s to see in three weeks?” Well, the answer seems simple now: I’m part of a clinical trial of something that might possibly have me growing a sixth toe before summer’s end. And that three week check-in is necessary for her to make sure I’m not and, far more importantly,  that three week check-in is necessary for her to document the results so she can tell the company who cranks it out how well it’s doing, so that in turn, she can get some of that shoe money.

So, in about a month, god willing or devil be damned, I’ll be either eczema free once again or still covered in it with six toes on each foot, while that elite class of fair skinned snake-oil-salesmen and the companies who pay them snarf my hard earned (now heavily taxed by the state of California–hey, where’s it all going btw California, where?) dough.