So what is this? And more to the point: why indeed should you read it?
Well, on the surface, it’s a writer’s manual, a handbook for the countless numbers of new authors currently trying to find a foothold in a brave new publishing world. But that only tells part of the story. It’s also a satire of that world, a pastiche and a parody. While hopefully illuminating some of the scary pitfalls and honest-to-goodness pathways through the murky swamp of epublishing, it also pokes fun at it. All of it. Within these chapters, you will find writing tips and editing advice, much of it practical and yet simultaneously irreverent. It maps my own journey through that swamp, a journey that’s far from over, and if on occasion it wails too loudly in frustration, perhaps it will be redeemed when it makes you laugh… and then makes you cry all over again. If, on occasion, I mock others too harshly, please recognize my self-deprecation, too. For every wagging finger of satire, after all, three others point back.
I don’t pretend to define this book easily. Many of its chapters were originally blog posts for the web collective Indies Unlimited or for my own blog, The Migrant Type. I've tried to keep to a minimum the hyperlinks that were so tempting to preserve, since I personally don't surf the Web much on my Kindle, although it’s possible that tablet users might.
Within these pages, you will encounter sinking ships, musings on soccer, tributes to literary greats and not-so-greats, punk rock, literary mashups, wordplay, shin-kicking contests, seahorse roe, Jersey Shore, urban legends, lists (oh, so many lists), beginnings and endings, poetry, social media, Joe Konrath, Dan Mader, Atticus Finch, Holden Caulfield, Yngwie Malmsteen, horror, movie magic, drunk sportswriters, Valley Girls, tricks, sonnets, meanness, strangeness, kindness, sorrow, rabid baboon esophagi, sparkly vampires, soccer moms, R. Kelly, Stephen King, fantasy, Lester Bangs, light spankings, Smashwords, pitfalls and cautionary tales, handicapped badger spleens, Canada, Heath Ledger, Kurt Cobain, Hannibal Lecter, Hunter S. Thompson, Shakespeare, zombies and Wu Tang Clan. Although, sadly, no nudity.
Yes, you might recognize the cover photo and even the title. It seemed fitting to me that, in a book filled with satire, mockery, self-loathing and pastiche, the very cover should be laden with poorly thought out gags, horribly embarrassing, misplaced hubris and other fun stuff… Not least, the title of the book itself, which is very much a parody of a tribute to a dead man. In my case, a cloth-eared, bathetic caricature of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, the title of which is, in turn, a paean to Shakespeare himself:
Hamlet: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.” (Hamlet Act 5, scene 1)
In keeping with many of the essays here, I am caught in a web of my own making. Tracing a lineage from Shakespeare to Wallace to…. well, me makes a mockery of the very idea of lineages in the first place. And don’t forget, a joke you have to explain is no longer much of a joke. Sigh.
Okay, by now, you will have gotten the idea. Read these essays and articles any way you choose: for writing advice (and there is plenty of that, you might be surprised to know); for a trench-level perspective of the publishing wars; for the often jumbled, sometimes anguished and occasionally lyrical thoughts of a writer who has loved the power and the beauty of words for longer than he wishes to remember. If it helps you learn some practical stuff about said words, that’s all well and good; if it allows you to remain in love with their beauty and power, even better.
Here there be tygers, sure: some of them may roar, some of them even bite, but many of them will smile and purr and only want to be your friend.
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