Keeping the Demon Caged

Having a book out in the world has been a real treat–mostly. I don’t have actual numbers put together, but I think it’s safe to say that for every three people who have taken the time to read it, one point five have liked it. I never expected everyone to like it, even so, it can be difficult to absorb critical reviews of something so very personal to me. Taking in things like, “the best writing in this book was the word end,” is especially trying when the review has been written by a reader who either scored the book for free because of my own promotions or due to a review service traditional publishers use known as NetGalley that I ponied up some dough for in order to expose the book to a broader base of readers. I suppose that’s what I paid for, honest reviews from complete strangers.

I put a great deal of time into researching the pros and cons of that move, and there was one warning that in hindsight seems particularly spot-on, something along the lines of this: when you offer up your book for free, a lot of people who never would have wanted to read it in the first place, will buy it, without making sure that it is something up their proverbial alley, and as such, will proceed to pan it relentlessly even if they didn’t bother to make it past page six. That has happened a number of times, and to some extent, my title My Dead Friend Sarah has also put the content of the book into the wrong hands–people looking for paranormal YA fiction about ghosts and dead folk to be exact.

Such is the case with my most recent panning–the reviewer even begins her umpteen-hundred words long review by making the admission that she downloaded it for free because she thought, “it was going to be a ghost story or at least have some paranormal/scary elements to it.” She isn’t the first to decide to read it for that reason, and I suspect she won’t be the last. I’m not going to belabor all of the things she found wrong with the book after being “compelled to finish it despite its shortcomings.” She was nice enough to give it two stars instead of one, just because of that compulsion by the way. It was her right to review it–her right to express every little dissatisfaction with it and post her beliefs on multiple sights, doing her civic duty of making sure the rest of the actual paying public isn’t duped into reading my book that isn’t about ghosts, or according to her all-bold Amazon review headline, “…isn’t about a dead girl named Sarah.

My shiny happy sober brain has me knowing that reviewing her blog, So-and-So’s Dark Fiction, here, and discussing its merits as determined by me, a highly decorated marketing/design/communications professional, would be a colossal defeat to higher-road types everywhere–and not becoming of an aspiring author either. But, The Demon, as I’ve come to calling that part of myself that still lurks within me even in sobriety, wants out of his cage. He has a wicked tongue, and he’d love nothing more than the opportunity to put into words a verbal assault to strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy the naive brother he shares a body with. (I guess he, The Demon, also likes butchering quotes from Pulp Fiction, thus really revealing his age to the kiddies out there).

Nope, gotta keep that slick son-of-a-bitch caged for at least another day. Thus, I’m off to try and run him into submission with a four of five miler–but only after his morning smoke. After all, her own demon is an unknown, and if I were to let mine pick a fight with hers publicly, there’s always the very real chance hers would come find me and snuff us both out. The Demon would love that.

My Little White Room

Every so often, I am treated to a lovely dream by my frenemy, my brain, in which I find myself awaking in a little white room upon a very sterile white twin bed, tucked under spotless white covers–tightly, and unable to move, even though there are no signs of restraints being used to prevent me from lifting myself from the bed to investigate past what my eyes can see: a small white table next to the bed, a glass with what appears to be water, and a window not much bigger than two foot by two foot on the wall to my left that might have the outside world on the other side, but the sun is so bright that everything is blown-out, and thus, not discernable.

Sometimes a human–possibly a doctor, researcher, agent, or any other manifestation of authority–enters the room to check on me. I try to speak, but I can’t. They do no speaking themselves, and reveal nothing as to the nature of my detainment. Usually this person hovers over me, staring at me, saying nothing and performing no examination or other molestation–just delivers a grin that rides the line between sympathetic and pleased. When he or she is gone, I’m left there to ponder what events might have taken place prior to my awakening, what are the circumstances surrounding my detainment. But there is never any true recollection–just speculation and the construction of numerous possibilites that might explain how I landed there. This is usually followed by a temporary bout of panic that either grows to the degree necessary to awaken me in the reality we call reality, or is just enough to seemingly reset the dream–and have me find myself in that same little white room again, for what feels like the very first time. And repeat.

Some might refer to this as a reoccurring dream, but it doesn’t happen with enough frequency for me to classify it as such–unlike say, the dream I often have where I know I’ve only a few days until a long prison term, and I spend much of it trying to figure out how to prevent a destiny I know I’ve already cemented for myself, despite not knowing what actions did the cementing.

I tend not to read too much into dreams–at least not my dreams–and these two narratives in particular are probably only a three on a ten scale that measures a dream’s disturbing-factor, ten being the most twisted ones that leave me not wanting to ever go back to sleep. But maybe, like so many things I think and imagine, that which is disturbing to you–a ten on your own scale–has become commonplace for me, my darker thinking routine enough to no longer see the spectacle of it all. Often the first thing that comes to my mind regarding the outcomes of a situation revolves around a twisted little nugget of a possibility that my friends and family might not have hypothesized if even given a day to dwell on potential scenarios.

Ugh. It almost sounds like I’m bragging, and maybe I am, but I certainly hope you won’t hold it against me–let it feed whatever insecurities you might have just enough to consider, and then put into action, a plan that finds you abducting me and reconstructing my Little-White-Room dream in order to get back at me. On the off chance that you do go forward with this very complicated form of retribution, please note: the bedside table is on the left of me, as is the viewless window, and the door to the room, which has no knob, should be placed to the right of my bed and in the farthest corner from me in what I can only guess is about a 12 x 12 foot room. Thanks!

Puts You In The Grave

This Level 9 Paranoia Children's Song (the first of what I hope might be many) and accompanying video is exactly what happens when a guy–a guy with more than just a few issues–gets up at three-thirty in the morning one too many days in a row while his wife is out of town. That said, I think it might be the best thing I have ever done. Amir, I'm ecstatic. Take me away boys.

Beep, Beep. She’s Dead.

I run to clear my mind. That makes me one of millions who do it for the very same reason. Just how much crazy can actually be removed during a run of three or four miles is debatable. Most days, if I’m blaring my music loud enough and mimicking the structure of what the guitar player in each track is doing with his hands, with my own left and right hand, I can put a good deal of my lunacy off for the duration of the run itself. But, somedays–like yesterday morning–no amount of music, pounding, increase in speed, or anything else will remove the thoughts I’d rather not have. And, again like yesterday, too often the impetus of something disturbing only occurs to me because I am out there running in the first place.

I’ll admit, yesterday morning I had the music down pretty low. I was already feeling a bit skittish about the possibilites of either vehicular manslaughter or early morning muggery. So, let’s call the volume of my iPod Shuffle a four out of ten. My wife was out running as well, which is also the norm, but had left sometime after my own start–so I had no visual on her, and due to our recent return from vacation (cat burglars, you missed your chance. our cat is still here by the way) Ariele’s house keys were still at the sitter’s. Girl is always on my mind, but knowing I’d have to keep a keen ear out for her return to our abode was the thought leading the majority of the crazy parade marching within my skull. Would I be showering? Would I be on the roof? Is the buzzer broken, and how long would she be locked out? Basic stuff.

As I crossed an intersection, with the light, a lone black SUV with tinted windows sat awaiting the green indication that would allow its driver to proceed to their destination. For no particular reason that I can figure, the driver honked his horn–beep, beep. There wasn’t anyone else around at that ungodly hour, this is Williamsburg, Brooklyn after all and hipsters–even the ones who jog, and many do–don’t usually patrol the street prior to seven AM. After a quick scan for the intended recipient of those devilish toots, I made a quick spin to see if the driver was trying to flag me down for directions, or if it was even someone I knew using their horn to say, “good morning.”

Couldn’t make anyone out, there were no additional honks, and so I continued on my way. So did the SUV, making a right turn at that intersection and fading off into the distance behind me. Panic set in, and in less than two seconds my brain decided it knew exactly why the SUV’s driver had made those honks. Clearly the driver had Ariele bound and gagged in the back, and either she had managed to scream my name or, and far more likely, her abductor had been tailing us for sometime and already knew that I was her husband. Being the sick twist that is an entry level requirement for purveyors of such misdeeds, he had decided to take the game up a notch–in his head, his own thinking was, “I’ll give this guy a sporting chance. I’ll honk the horn, if he has either the courtesy or balls to come over to the SUV to see if I need something, I’ll release his wife and never bug them again. And if he doesn’t, well, then what happens to his wife is meant to be–I gave him a chance, one last chance to save his bonnie lass (he’s a Depp fan apparently) and he blew it.”

I didn’t bother spinning around to chase the SUV to at least get a plate number, something I might have done a decade ago. Nor did I spin around and attempt to immediately find my wife out there, to verify her safety–zig zagging up and down every block at double speed in the hopes of catching at least a glimpse of her to reassure myself that my brain simply hates me and gets a kick out of making the rest of my body perform ridiculous tasks. Ohhhh… if I didn’t need that brain for other things, I’d give it a good punching for certain (shake of head to self).

Ariele made it home of course, which was a real relief to our cat, because in the time between my safe arrival home and hers, I had informed our cat that it was possible her mother wasn’t coming home that day. Laying the ground work for the kitty version of the seven stages of grief–after all, they are like twenty stages in human stages.

90 Days in the Amazon

It’s pretty common for people to write blog posts about their failures and successes using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and CreateSpace services. I figure, without having ever interviewed a single other blogger about it, that a big part of their decisions to write about the experience is nothing more than a ploy to get more eyeballs on the book or books they, like me, are so desperately trying to get people to read. The results of such bloggings I do not know–and originally I had planned on never writing such a post, out of some sort of misguided desire to keep the goings-on of my own publication a mystery.

Shameless self-promotion that this type of post can be, I’ll try to do something I believe a few might haven’t–and that’s be totally honest about what exactly has happened with my own publication thus far because of Amazon’s services. Clarity is not always my speciality, so let me expand a bit on that last inference: I truly believe that in the interest of propelling their book(s) even further, that some people have drastically inflated their sales numbers in the hopes of making it seem like the book is a smashing success to that post’s readers, believing that very misdirect will spur an immediate sale by the unsuspecting dupe taking that misinformation in. I’ll admit, it is also possible a few of the existing blogs that have covered this same subject were dated in that they used KDP in its earlier stages, before Amazon tweaked it, and as a result did, in fact, garner larger volumes of sales despite also being a first time unknown author.

Writing about Amazon has me feeling a touch of the willies, because while I am extraordinarily grateful for their services and what it has allowed this guy to do, I also find them to be a tad frightening in regards to how much information they compile on each and everyone of us–not to mention, what the company’s contributions to the publishing world might ultimately spell out for various others in the profession. The topic of Amazon Publishing Services itself can lead to some very heated conversations, and for some it is an exceptionally polarizing institution. But, like my politics, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with bits and pieces presented by both sides of that conversation. Doesn’t mean I’m not a little paranoid that some nut-bag who truly hates Amazon isn’t going to use the other big brother of the world, Google, to hunt me down and put my head on a stake in front of Amazon’s offices as a warning to any future writers thinking of travelling the same path I have thus far–and yet, I press forward with some details for the casual reader of long-winded drivel. Lucky you.

Today will be my 90th day with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. And in order to take full advantage of a few key services they provide during that time, I had to agree to only sell the ebook version of my novel exclusively through Amazon. I wasn’t even able to sell it on my own website, by which I mean, I wasn’t able to make an actual transaction, money for book, using my various blogs. Linking to the book’s page on Amazon was totally fine, and that’s precisely what I did. Now, bare with me, as I deliver some numbers and a bit of the everything that I did to achieve what I am confidently deeming a successful first 90 Days in the Amazon.

Total copies of My Dead Friend Sarah OBTAINED by readers via Amazon only, ebook and paperback, as of today and at various price points set by yours truly: 13,136

I think this is incredible by the way, but before we get our collective panties in a wad completely, let’s take a look at that number in more detail shall we?

Total copies of My Dead Friend Sarah PAID FOR or CHECKED OUT using Kindle’s Lending Library by readers via Amazon only, ebook and paperback, as of today and at various price points set by yours truly: 688

If this number impresses you, as it sorta does me, then you are in the right. Why? The average traditionally published book, in all forms, sells about 500 copies in a year–or so I’ve read. I won’t be linking to facts, but you are certainly welcome to fact check my facts yourself. On top of that, the average book self-published in paperback using CreateSpace sells a scant 25 copies in a year. So, I welcome any kudos you might want to throw my way, because, as you might have surmised, just putting my book onto Amazon is NOT what led to 688 actual sales, nor is it even solely responsible for the success I had giving away 12,448 copies using exactly two of the five Free Days that Amazon KDP allowed me to use. On that second day of the promotion, for most of the day, My Dead Friend Sarah was the number one most downloaded book in suspense/thrillers by the way, and it felt awesome. It should be noted though that ereadernewstoday.com was kind enough to include my title in their morning post of 5 freebies, and without that having happened, I believe the total of books obtained for free that weekend would have been far less–somewhere around 3,000 to 3,500 I think.

I was quite hesitant to use any of the Free Days at all, people should be paying for the creative output of others and all that, but I do believe that because of whatever algorithm Amazon uses to feed Free Books into the display system titled “Customers who bought X also bought Y and Z,” that it most definitely boosted exposure to My Dead Friend Sarah. No question about it really, but while that certainly put my title in front of new eyes, I can honestly say that I don’t believe it was primarily responsible for my books sustained momentum of roughly an average of 7.6 sales/day. Not completely, and maybe not at all.

I’m run various self-administered tests using different combinations of Facebook ads, Google Adwords, blog posts, my own participation among other blogs, boards, etc. And, during the times that I have had absolutely no time to perform those mixtures of hocking my wares, there was a markedly drastic decline in daily sales. Many days, as few as zero. On the days that I have found the time to institute one, two, three or more of those efforts towards promoting my book, the sales have always been better. Even as I work in advertising, I was surprised to see what a difference it tended to make with regards to selling books, when i shouted about the book from digital rooftops.

Total books sold via all methods of selling, including the original paperback run-turned-failure with LuLu, paperback sales made by hand to co-workers and friends, and one or two via Amazon’s expanded distribution offer that put my book onto an infinite number of other online retailers: 720 books I believe.

Given the disappointing figures of other self-published and traditionally published works, and I’m talking the numbers that are far lower than that earlier mention of the industry average of 500/year and the self-published 25/year, I’d have to call the early stages of my self-publishing career a success. In my mind, 1000 units PAID for was a realistic goal for the end of 2012, and I’m not that far off from there. I’ve got a few other promotional tricks up my sleeves that I’ll be unleashing into the world during July and August, and I have a tremendous amount of positive energy going forward, as so many of the reviews for the book have been overwhelmingly positive.

Now, as long as Amazon doesn’t get cranky because of this post, and decide to yank me from their service entirely–I’m off to work on my next book, that, unless I ink a deal with a traditional publisher, I will most definitely be putting out using KDP and CreateSpace again. For me, the 90 day exclusivity clause didn’t really hinder sales. Most of my friends, family and other immediate buyers were cool to take a chance on downloading The Kindle App for their iPads and computers, if they didn’t already have it, or in fact have a Kindle. And for their continued support and purchases I am forever grateful to all of the people helping push my book out there.

Will I do another 90 days with Amazon KDP? I’ve got a little bit more time to hem and haw over it, but as of right now, I can’t honestly say that being able to put My Dead Friend Sarah out on Nook or iBookstore would make a noticeable difference. Not yet anyway.

Hope this answers some questions for some folks, and if you hear in tomorrow’s papers about a suspicious accident involving your favorite paranoid writer, please do be a dear friend and if you haven’t read My Dead Friend Sarah, give it a shot, tell a friend, or in lieu of that, mount up and concoct some charges against the beast that is Amazon–after all, my cat will need some diapers, and kitty diapers aren’t cheap.

Colin Hay Wants to Know

Above this text you will see a quick screen shot of some of the most recent searches that have led fine folks like yourself to my blog. I don’t pay much attention to this little blurb, and when I do, most days I find phrases along the lines of, “new fiction, paranoid thoughts, sober this or that” and the occasional long string of words that clearly indicates someone has Level 9 Paranoia way worse than this guy. Yesterday though, I was initially amused to see, “peter rosch dui.” I’m an open book, and while I sincerely regret having ever put myself in the position to get a DUI, I have no issues with people knowing about it–in fact, I should probably regale everyone with the fine tale of my night’s stay in a Bronx jail cell at some point. That was a real treat, let me tell you. After a quick trip down my own memory lane though, I started to wonder, “Who could it be digitally knocking at my door?” Why would anyone be on the hunt for that information? Who is trying to dig up dirt on this lowly private citizen, and what exactly do they intend on doing with that information when they find it? The little sliver of my brain that produces happy thoughts suggested, “Hey, maybe someone is doing an article/review on My Dead Friend Sarah.” Of course, this was a short lived notion, and it wasn’t even seconds before my brain started to fabricate as many other possible scenarios in which someone out there was doing a slow and methodical hunt for dirt on yours truly. It was a situation that I carried with me quietly, and shared with some friends, throughout the day. In retelling the story to my family last night–and only then–did I remember to myself, “Douchebag. You are not the only Peter Rosch on the planet. There are in fact a couple more famous than you, not to mention the man who co-created you, you egotistical sack of baloney.”

So, Dad, is there something I should know?

Agents of Sloth

My paranoia never leaves me completely, but it’s seemed relatively quiet upstairs the last few days–if I didn’t know better I’d say the curse had been lifted. I hadn’t give much thought to my current state of bliss, at least what bliss is for this guy, until I started formulating ideas for this very post. It wasn’t the first time my mind put wondering against the notion that some day I’d not be able to write for this blog anymore, and that perhaps I’d have to change the title to Level 9 Happy Goodness Times. In and of itself, that thought proves things are still cranking up there. The battle between my brain and me rages on, but at times it plays a quieter game–moves to destroy my sanity with the more subtle themes of self-doubt and dread. I think my psyche knows that if it positioned every evil twist, potential fate, and the doings of others as over-the-top Hollywood blockbusters, that in time those fabrications wouldn’t impact me with the same ferocity. And so, this past weekend, it decided to play me a quieter head-film, in the vein of an Indie feature that dwells in subject matter one might describe as more probable in the real world, and only seemingly less heinous due to the lack of guts, blood, and booming soundtrack.

I spent a great deal of time working on my next novel on both Saturday and Sunday. It was equal parts rewarding and frustrating, not too disimilar from the efforts I put against My Dead Friend Sarah, but perhaps with the additional creative-crushing notion kicking around that the table of my life has now been set with some lovely place settings, at least according to some, and this second book will serve as the metaphorical meal for those waiting patiently at this table to consume it. Yeah, there might be a little more pressure this time around–no one even knew I was writing the last time, and even I had no expectations going in to that one, other than to complete a rough draft of a full story in a timely fashion, rather than give up just twenty-two or thirty pages in, like had been the case in previous attempts made by a younger, and often pig-stink drunk or hungover from having been pig-stink drunk, version of myself.

If you care to know, I can tell you that in spite of the laundry list of thoughts that worked feverishly to prevent me from putting pen to paper on the next book, I was still able to get quite a bit done by committing to the doing of it as though the results of my labor meant nothing to me or anyone else–even though they eventually will. Only by committing to writing was I able to ignore the following gems of delusion that seek to keep me lethargic and in a permanent state of sloth: This story had been told before, You can’t write in 3rd Person, People were just being nice about the first one, Did you read what you wrote in the last chapter–laughable Rosch, The title is taken, The title is taken because someone is writing the exact same plot as you at this very minute and will publish their story long before you are finished, You are missing out on a great day out there that could be your last, You aren’t getting paid squat to write this book–mind telling me what the point is friend, Wouldn’t our time be better spent coming up with a gadget people really need, Being a writer isn’t a real job Peter, stop wasting time on this and let’s butter-up that resume with actual accomplishments.

It’s going to be a long, slightly different journey than the last. Here’s to hoping the part of my brain that likes me continues to do just enough to beat back the parts that most definitely don’t.

dRead All About It!

I’ve got plenty to go on when I make my own morning summations of what the world has in store for me day to day. Most of my worst fears are based on the evil that bakes quietly inside of humankind. It is rare that I give much thought to the micro-critters that would have us serve as their vehicles of choice. And yes, I’ve seen all the very best and worst contagion films. But I am reading The Thin White Line right now, and I have to say–my ability to process the very real implications of something invisible but far more probable than a cracked-out junkie looking to swipe my iShuffle on my way to living an extraordinary existence isn’t very honed. I’ll be working on that to my own detriment and your personal enjoyment, as it pertains to humoring the masses with my anecdotes.

One Man’s Lullaby

Why am I the way I am? No one thing could be to blame, but it is worth mentioning that my mother and/or aunt used to sing this song to me as a wee little lad. Found myself humming it this afternoon on an otherwise nice walk with the Mrs. Thanks ladies. xo

What’s all this Fizz About?

A quick glance at the morning paper would suggest that New Yorkers have–as I’m almost positive had been hoped for by Bloomberg and his cronies–soundly rejected the notion of a full-on ban of sugary beverages over sixteen ounces. I submit here, and I’m sure I’m not the first, that this had likely been the desired effect of the overly bold declaration that your sweet sugar water in mass would be removed from shelves. Has it occurred to you that perhaps the first step in getting people to accept a tax on the very same nectar beverages would be to craft a scenario in which we all started to see a soda-tax as a reasonable concession by Bloomberg and the city, in the face of our pained cries against a full-on ban?

Will we be reading about this for months, watching as they make it appear they are listening to the fine soda junkies of this fair city, while they are secretly galvanizing support for at least a small tax to be bestowed upon our vats of liquid glee? I can’t say. But I’ll be the first to say I told you so, when and if this particular bout of Friday morning Level 9 Paranoia proves to be prophetic. I’ve no skin in this particular game, as my own brand of canned/bottled happiness is of the chemical variety. D.C. for-evuh.