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.

Selling Out on Honesty

I was recently asked (via my publicist) by the editor at SellingPower.com to do a six to eight hundred word blog post that focused on salespeople. Or something of that ilk. After penning the submission below, they passed. Since the bulk of the post is about honesty in selling, and they didn’t care for it, I’ll have to roll with the assumption that it’s a concept too dreadfully boring to engage anyone–and that ultimately they were hoping I’d write some op-ed piece about how abusing alcohol had made me an incredible force to be reckoned with in the world of marketing. Or maybe, just maybe, when it comes to writing something of a semi-serious nature–something that doesn’t revolve around the umpteen ways I might die today–I’m just not a very good writer. Or, and what I’ve chosen to believe, is that they aren’t fans of honesty–maybe there is no place for it in the world of movers and shakers. I doubt that’s why they passed, but believing it to be the reason certainly helped put myself at ease with the rejection. Either way, seems a pity for the message to go nowhere. And so, I present to you my dear readers the blog post SellingPower.com decided wasn’t right for them. Enjoy.

An Honest Pitch by Peter Rosch

Full disclosure: I am writing this blog post in the hopes of selling a few more copies of my debut novel, My Dead Friend Sarah.

Honesty is my policy, and I’m of the opinion that at the end of the day, honesty is paramount to successful selling. Honesty doesn’t mean unsexy, unfunny, un-almost-anything for that matter. It simply is the basis for how I attempt to begin all my communication crafting about the goods, services, and other can’t-live-withouts companies pay me to hock. I am selling for a living, but as a consumer I try to remain suspicious of my motives.

What have I sold? Countless pairs of jeans, numerous brands of beer, electronic gadgets, deodorant, soaps, treats, eats, services and even personalities. Sixteen years as an awarding winning creative cog in the global marketing machine–as a writer, art director, strategist, creative director, and brand visionary–have me feeling just qualified enough to share my beliefs regarding convincing people to part with their hard-earned dollars. My most recent creation? Unilever’s AXE Susan Glenn campaign out of Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York.

I consider myself a living breathing contradiction. A man hell-bent on influencing the masses towards purchases they hadn’t considered, who himself rarely puts his own money on the table for many of those very same items and services. As a marketer I’m ferocious; as a consumer I’m beyond cautious.

“Question everything. Trust no one.” These words are permanently inked just below my left shoulder, and while the tattoo’s origin isn’t specific to transactions involving my money, right or wrong, it does serve as a guiding principal in my purchasing patterns. Agendas are everywhere, and now, more than ever, the infinite number of marketers, big and small, who shout at me daily in their efforts to take my time, money, and perhaps a little bit of my sanity, is mind-boggling. And I believe I’m being honest when I say to you, many of them are out and out lying to me.

Can I also honestly say that in all my time as an advertising creative that I’ve never bent the truth on a single project in order to woo a consumer? No. But, I will tell you that my most successful efforts, across a colorful spectrum of brands, have had one glaring thing in common: the messaging was born from a truth. A truth inherent to the product and its benefit to the consumer, or a truth that is inherent to the way people choose to use and live with a brand, product, or service.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Who among us wants to be lied to? I don’t enjoy it, and, like you, I have a great disdain for anyone who wastes my time. And if you are lying to me in an effort to grab my attention by making too-good-to-be-true claims that prey on my insecurities as a methodology to a quick buck, you are, in fact, wasting my time. And I am fully vested in the belief that even if you do successfully trick me and others from time to time, eventually that ill-conceived kernel in your sales pitch will come back to bite you on the ass.

I don’t buy or use everything I sell, and I don’t believe I have to think something is perfect for me in order to shill it to others. But for this salesman, it is increasingly important that what I’m saying about the items I’m trying to move be deeply rooted in a truth for the customer and target looking to benefit from their various uses. The golden rule is golden for a reason. Sell to others the way you’d have someone sell to you. It might just be that simple.

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!

Animals In The Know

Dear owner of the dog downstairs,

No need to apologize for your dog’s dislike of me. Oh wait, you didn’t apologize, nor have you ever apologized. Like your dog, you seemingly have zero respect for the rest of the world and the personal space of its other inhabitants. Even so, there really is no need to apologize. Your dog gets it. I hate him, and I hate you. Hard to hide that kind of negative energy from some of nature’s special little critters. And so, in a weird way, even as I loathe your beast, there is also a growing respect for his ability to see through my mask of ambivalence–so, don’t get too bent out of shape about it. You might be thinking, “Gee neighbor, you must hate dogs.” I have used the word “gee” for a reason, I believe it helps me paint you as the lumbering moron I believe you to be for my readers. Anyway, I don’t hate dogs–anymore than I hate people. Some dogs suck, like yours, and some people suck, like you. Part of me should be fearful that you might come upon this blog post, do some quick math via google, and ultimately decide to unleash the filthy mutt (bad choice of words, since I’ve never seen it on a leash) to feast upon my flesh. I’m pretty sure you don’t do much reading though, call it a hunch. Well, until next time, I’ll be honing my ability to trick your dog into thinking everything’s cool. “Keep your enemies closer,” and what not, right? Enjoy the rest of the day that I almost allowed you to let me ruin for myself.

Sincerely,

The dude upstairs who hates your dog, but respects the keen sense of energy fields it, unlike you, possesses

Sunny Central Park Stroll With My Demon

As I’ve mentioned before, a good deal of my brain activity in any given day is put against speculation of what dark deeds other people around me are scheming or engaged in at that moment. Typically, I don’t have to work very hard to fabricate exactly how their actions are going to impact me, directly or indirectly. These individuals aren’t always out to get me specifically, on occasion I’m sure I am only fated to be the collateral damage of whatever plans they have for someone else that day. It isn’t always about me, but as of late, I find myself wondering more and more if maybe I shouldn’t turn additional attention towards myself. What things am I doing daily that serve to destroy me?

I’m a big believer in the Shadow Self. Carl Jung defined the Shadow Self as “that which we think we are not.” To shed a touch more light on the concept let me just plagiarize a bit with this little nugget from the interwebs: You may believe that you are not like your neighbor who does this or that bad thing, but if those negative qualities you judge, were not also a part of you, then they would not trigger your emotions. You might be nodding in agreement, you might also be nodding the other direction in disgust or boredom–wondering how come your gracious author isn’t just talking, per usual, about something like, how he thinks the recent uptick in the number of hangover cures, morning-after recovery kits and beverages, is actually all part of a big brother style black-ops operation to slowly rid the world the chronically underachieving. Perhaps I’ll post proper about that little gem over the coming weekend, and so if you aren’t into a more meta post right now, I encourage you to come back in a few days for something only seemingly more disturbing that what follows here.

Part of any proper recovering addict’s or alcoholic’s Shadow Self, would be the disease of addiction itself. AA oldtimers are big fans of the saying, “While I’m in a meeting, my disease is out in the parking lot doing push-ups.” My knee-jerk reaction to the utterance of that phrase is usually something along the lines of the silent version of this sound, “Pffffft.” Most likely because the disease itself wants me to believe I’ve been cured. One need not look any farther than Zelda Rubinstein’s declaration, “This house is clean” to understand that if you’ve had demons, those suckers aren’t really ever leaving for good. And if you don’t keep making smart decisions (for example, in the case of the family from Poltergeist, moving out of the house immediately after that supposed victory) the spiteful little bastards will speak to you from time to time, coaxing you back into the very hell you left, with promises of renewed, consequence-less good times. They, or in my case, the other me, is shrewd. And I’ll be damned, because yet again, those cutesy bull-shit-phrases that litter the walls of the rooms of recovery are wickedly on point.

My life is a sensational dream; I couldn’t ask for more than I have, and my gratitude for all of it is through the roof. And yet, as recently as yesterday, just mere moments after finding near peace with everything going on in and around me thanks to an hour on an Upper Eastside couch, the voice of my demon was as loud as it had ever been. Wondering–almost aloud–as we strolled through Central Park on such a lovely day, “What would it be like if we made an effort to throw it all away? Wouldn’t that be quite the experience? To go deeper down the rabbit hole of madness and filth than ever before, if only to see if we could resurrect ourselves yet again.” My Shadow Self knows the way to my heart; my disease knows I’m always up for a challenge, and as twisted as its coaxing might sound to the average Joe, I found myself drawn to the idea. To destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to create, just to rebuild it again–from scratch, heck, without even scratch to get started. That’d be something.

On the other side of Central Park, we could get started. We still knew a few bars there from our first six years in New York City. We’d be well on our way into this new journey before lunch, and any of the various paths it might lead us down would only serve to strengthen our own understanding of what is at first hedonistic and sinfully enjoyable, until it also further educates us on what it truly means to be without hope, scratching from dark corners, without so much as a dime and not a friend left. With rapt attention, I listend to my disease, the demon within, as he held me close, shielding me from the beauty of the park and twisting the reality of what I have, while feeding me truths about many of the world’s injustices, the worst in people, reading me the troubling and sensationalistic headlines from the discarded rags that pass as news that we occasionally found underfoot. He had my curiosity, he had my attention, he had everything but my smart phone–which buzzed in my palm, only to tell me that someone had hearted the picture of my cat that I had posted on Instagram earlier that morning.

The Demon, smart SOB that he is, didn’t curse me out, didn’t continue trying to talk me into something other than heading to the subway to make a beeline to work, and didn’t let out some twisted tortured yelp as though I’d vanquished him once and for all–nope, he simply wished me a good rest of the day, and right before he left said, as casually as my very best friend might, “I’ll see you around, Rosch.”

Hostel Dentistry

Blame Delta Airlines, that’s my motto. Sunday evening I took a red-eye to Prague, CZ. When I got on the plane, I had nothing wrong going on in my mouth other than the nearly lifeless tastebuds smoking gifts me that currently inhabit the surface of my tongue. But when I awoke, there were the beginning inklings of what I surmised might be a loose filling. How Delta Airlines is responsible for what by Wednesday had turned into a full-on tooth ache isn’t really important. It’s simply important to have someone to blame, and I have chosen them and not the tobacco companies, the M&Ms I crunched upon relentless pre-nap, nor am I willing to blame the age of that particular filling, which I think has been riding around in my head for over twenty years now. It’s a trooper that filling! A gutsy little metallic mofo that refuses to let go and die. How do I know that it is still clinging to what’s left of that tooth like a champ? Because I caved and had the production company book me a visit to a dentist here in Prague.

I was pretty proud of myself, “This is a real adult move,” I said to no one with near visible self-high-fives. “An adult doesn’t let everything he thinks of the Eastern European Block, that he has based almost solely on the flick Hostel, prevent him from seeking the pre-emptive treatment he deserves.” My rah-rah-Rosch moment was short lived, and slowly the very things that movie and its successors taught me about the inhabitants of this part of the world grew, until they were large enough to stomp any delight in my decision. That said, it was too late to turn back. This whiney baby had made quite the fuss about his tooth, and arrangements to see a specialist had been made on his behalf–to tell them I wasn’t going to go through with it might brand me a liar about toothaches, and that’s a particular type of liar I aspire not to be. Filthy buggers that lot.

So, I laid my head to my pillow, quite late I might add, and did the only sensible thing a man in my situation could do: I watched a slightly crappy, but full version, of The Descent on YouTube. My mind quickly relented and those slimy cave-suckers all but erased any thoughts I was entertaining about the possible outcomes of my visit to the dentist a short six hours from that moment.

This morning I was greeted by a lovely woman by the name of Veronika. She assured me she would sit with me to translate, and I found that reassuring, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that she wouldn’t be in on the sale of my body to others for the sport of torture. Perhaps she was too nice about it all, and as we took a cab, instead of a sanctioned production van, to a part of Prague covered in the most sure tell that indicates bad parts of town, graffiti–graffiti I couldn’t even understand at that–I began to more than suspect, and indeed decided to believe that she wasn’t above dropping off some ad schmuck from the states at a place of the illest repute imaginable (Cameron, I know illest isn’t a word, go with it).*

We went inside, the office itself smelled delightful. “Very nice,” I thought. And then began a brain loop of an old Wendy’s commercial where there is an Eastern European fashion show taking place–”Svim Vear, Very Nice. Svim Vear, Very Nice.” My escort introduced me to the dentist himself. That struck me as odd, and yet I proceeded into the next room. I lay down upon the chair, a horrendous looking beast of a contraption next to all manner of deadly instruments, nothing unusual about that. Veronika left the room. The moment of truth: This would be where I finally met my Level 9 Destiny, I would be dead soon, but victorious when my current partner was forced to utter at my funeral, “I guess he was right, that poor bastard was right.” We’ve made an arrangement to this, and I trust he’ll come through for me.

The dentist asked me to open my mouth in better English than the Starbucks baristas I hold so dear back in NYC. And so I did. He proceeded to slam a small hammer into the tooth in question, a gigantic pain coursed through my skull. “That’s the one!” I shouted. And he agreed then said, “Let’s have an X-ray, shall we?”

I got up and followed him to another room, farther removed from the front desk, and with my companion nowhere to be found. He opened a door. There was an X-ray machine there, and it looked legit, but I still couldn’t shake the absurd idea that maybe they’d tweaked it to render you unconscious upon firing it up. No struggle, no messes. Just ZAP, and I’d be ready to be moved to the dungeon that lay below that mini-mall. He exited the room, and the machine began to whirr. I took a deep breath, had a momentary panic about being radiated, and then it was over.

He opened the door, smiled large, and asked me to come have a look with him back in the first room. By now, my fears were subsiding, and I was ready to admit that today would not be the day I’d concocted at all.

After politely telling me that he saw noting, and that there was little else that could be done, he sent me on my way to pay and rejoin Veronika so that she may see me back to my hotel. And so I did.

I asked her if it was possible to walk back to my hotel, as I didn’t believe there was much point in allowing this charade to continue. It was very nice of them to make sure all my teeth were in great shape to charge a much higher price to the suit who’d pay top dollar to destroy a perfectly good pair while wearing a pig’s head in a dark dungeon and all. Very nice indeed. She seemed puzzled by my desire to forgo the cab ride back, but agreed to drop me off half-way so that I could enjoy a perfectly nice stroll on a beyond perfectly nice day here. I’d tell you that I thought this was nice of her, but a more accurate way to end this story would be tell you that I am pretty sure that just about the time I was ten feet from the cab and headed into a menacing looking park, I heard her say, “You’ve von for now Mizter Rozch, enjoy your valk, for it will be you’re very last.”

That I have turned her into some sort of vampire-talker at this point is a sure indication I’ve got no business finishing posts at one in the morning in foreign countries in the hopes of hitting my commuting friends back in the states in time for them to be able to read this post before climbing aboard their respective trains.

Thanks for taking this ride with me friends.

* My nephew assures me that actually illest is, in fact, a word. Thanks Cam.

Which of the Seven Circles of Hell?

“I don’t think I should have to work overtime to convince anyone that I deserve future kudos. But, this is the world I live in. Anyone who doesn’t religiously talk-up their own bullshit, no matter the validity of its purpose, the enjoyment it provides others, or the sincerity of its intent on the betterment of life or mankind, is left sitting amongst the also-rans. Barnum couldn’t have foreseen the utterly egomaniacal nature and ease of future communications when he said, ‘Without promotion something terrible happens: nothing.’ It is no longer enough to be fantastic. You have to be fantastic at letting people know just how fantastic you are, and I hate it.”    – Elisa Hardwick, from my forthcoming novel But I Love You.

To quote one of my own characters from a book I’ve not even finished might just be the epitome of the very type of behavior the quote itself references. But alas, I’m a man who enjoys having people read what he writes–and to some extent it matters very little whether they enjoyed having read it, or found what I had written loathsome, dull, or unrealistic. In the latter instances perhaps I get the tiniest bit of satisfaction in knowing that I’ve managed to trick them into wasting some of their day on me. It’s a dark part of my personality that I currently work very hard at squashing with a trained professional on a comfy couch on the Upper East Side. I’ll get there.

To shout about the things I put out into the world goes against everything my sobriety and my leanings towards Buddhist practices would have me do. Indeed, my own preference would be to put content in the form of books, music, musings, ads, and the like out into the world for it to be found naturally, on its own time, and because others made the discovery of it serendipitously and then shouted about it themselves. But, I’m not perfect. I don’t aspire to be perfect, and perhaps I’d be labelled a fool by most to not use what life throws at me in order to give my other pursuits their best possible shot at an existence beyond simply existing. I try not to let what others might think of me dictate my actions, but I do let it inform them.

So, is it wrong to post the commercial I wrote for AXE, here on my blog, because it is garnering so much attention and in theory could lead to a few people finding and purchasing my novel? Maybe. Maybe not. For those of you who share my disgust in regards to self-indulgent, self-congratulatory postings, tweets, and the like (Yes, I do it. A lot of it, but it doesn’t mean I care for it) perhaps you can take some solace in knowing that so far my triumphs in the realm of advertising, present and past, have not meant squat to the readers of fiction. Even fiction that is based in the complex realities of who I used to be.

But, maybe it’s only because they haven’t been exposed to it yet. I am still surprised when people who I consider close friends reveal that they only just found out that I wrote a book. And so, at the risk of having perhaps only myself condemn me for all eternity, I have decided to embed the Susan Glenn commercial here as well–tag the fuck out of it–and maybe earn a few more followers of my regularly scheduled programming. It’s worth a shot, no? It’s also important that any readers of this post know this: I do not consider myself solely responsible for the creation of this branded film. It was only through the rigorous efforts of many people, both agency and client, that a film the likes of this one could ever make it out into the world. And so I thank them all, and last, but most definitely not least, I thank the brain of my good friend and partner, Nate Able, for co-creating the idea from scratch with me. It was our baby, and it’s nice to see it doing so well so early in the world.

Enjoy, and if you feel so inclined, why not take a chance on my book. Good day. I said, Good day.

Customized Abduction Vans for any Occasion

It goes without saying that right now, as you read this, somewhere out there in those United States of America, at least one van is being used as what I–and I’m sure many others–have coined, Abduction Vans. Yep, if you do the math, and I haven’t, but if you did the math, I’m sure you’d come to the same conclusion. Below is a collection of all sorts of Abduction Vans that predators, mafia, kidnappers, the world’s most twisted souls and those who aspire to be them, might be using right now for a whole host of different reasons. I was kind enough to scribe at least one reason that each of these Abduction Vans is special underneath each photo representation. It was my pleasure, so sincerely, no thanks are necessary. I take great comfort in knowing that you’ll now join me in never being able to see a van as simply just another van. Oh, and yes, it goes without saying that each shot snapped put me into harms way, even as hundreds of hipsters were milling about the same streets of Williamsburg. No predator likes his methodology of abduction photographed, and they certainly don’t care for the careful analysis of the reason or reasons for their choice of vehicular man-slaughterers.

With the exception of the industrial locks (a must) and the extended cab (a nice touch for the abduction of more than one) I’d say this is your standard everyday run-of-the-mill abduction van. Complete with creepy, almost-useless, tinted circular window that comes standard in most AVs.

This darker colored model comes complete with an almost completely illegible company name, in this case for a supposed Locksmith. Nothing says, “I’m totally not trying to throw anyone in my van for later-date-torture,” like faded/peeling low-brow blue-collar Americana signage. Nothing.

This sinister ride comes complete with not only the decoy signage, but also a heavy-duty gate lift for those predators who prefer bigger-boned folks to quench their blood thirst.

The truly bold fiends apparently aren’t beyond telling the world exactly what they’ve done, or perhaps announcing their intentions. This predator has either already taken 7 Ricks, plans to Take 7 Ricks, or is only allowed to Take 7 Ricks in total or all at once.

If you are only planning on ever committing one abduction, than perhaps it is best to just pay $19.95 for a one day rental, possibly two, rather than spend a bundle on something you’ll never use to abduct ever again. Don’t kid yourself into buying a van for just one abduction by pretending you’re going to redo your backyard deck, and lie to yourself with fibs like, “It will come in handy later for making trips to Home Depot.”

Why bother securing a facility to store your abductee or bringing him or her back to your spiffy, OCD-clean apartment? Maybe you like Mother Nature and are feeling like performing your cerimonial amputations in the great outdoors. You’ll need a Camper Abduction Van for that. Heck, you can scoop someone up and hit the road for quite sometime–putting ample distance between the two of you and their loved ones as well as the search party they’ve surely formed back home. ROAD TRIP!

A sure fire way to keep suspicion of your misdeeds to a minimum is to perform your abducting in a van too stupid looking for anyone to suspect anything other than the notion that you have abysmal taste in modes of transportation. Nice play Ol’ Boy!

This one might appear to be just another fake-company van, but it is actually soooo much more! A van that features a wonderful word, in this case, “Majestic,” plants a subliminal brain-clouding worm of doubt, creating feelings associated with the meaning of lovely words, before potential worry-warts can even get their paranoia going–leaving them feeling fuzzy and wonderful inside even after you’ve snatched them!

Interested in grabbing tons of tikes off the streets or old relics of bygone eras that are fans of The Partridge Family? Or Both? This is the abduction dream you’ve been waiting for!

Maybe you just want to try a few first with tiny dogs or cats before you make the big leap and pricey, but necessary, purchase to go after bigger game. Why not a make a few bucks advertising local businesses on the side of your pre-human-serial-killing-exploits dream machine?!

And finally, and exactly how I’d roll personally–if I had any intentions of joining the time honored tradition of People Hunting for Sport–the Abduction Van that absolutely screams, “I am an Abduction Van,” so loudly, in fact, that any passer-byers will immediately dismiss it as far too obvious without ever giving it a second thought. Though, I can assure you I certainly gave it one, if not two, or possibly six more thoughts before I got home.

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.