For those of you interested in the kind of writing in this novel I’ve written, I have decided to publish a free excerpt. This one is from the middle of the book, but it should be easy to understand what’s going on. It encapsulates all the major themes of the novel: the starkness and inhospitality of the desert, Jack Dinero’s strained relationship with his parents, and the hypnotic pull of the cult, personified in the seductively adorkable personality of Brianna Bubger. I pulled from the middle of the book because you can read the first three chapters in the Kindle preview. If you like what you’ve read so far, check out the Amazon page and/or consider subscribing to this blog for more dispatches from Creosote Canyon and S. P. Hoctor.(more…)
Re-evaluating my pencils
Well, my total worldwide sales figures for Your New Church Family have skyrocketed to… six. I have now sold six copies of the novel I promised my younger self I’d write all the way back in 2015. It’s mutated quite a lot in the last nine years, but I think my 2015 younger self would be proud, even if my 1992 younger self, the one who drew those depressing and violent cartoons that the novel is extremely loosely based on, would seriously question why there wasn’t enough punching and explosions in it.
(1992 Me would probably also be a little disappointed that I changed the characters around from his thinly veiled depictions of guys he wished were his friend and girls he had crushes on, and got rid of most, if not all, the references to Beverly Hills, 90210 and The Simpsons. Sorry, lonely teenage rebel, I don’t want to be sued or harangued by former classmates asking if such and such character was based on them. It’s bad enough I named some minor characters after random monster names swiped from the manual of Super Metroid which might actually be trademarked by Nintendo.)
The funny thing about all of this is that, looking back at all the old posts on this blog, I realize I was far more concerned with what software and hardware to write my book with. I was obsessed with the idea that I needed to find the right ancient computer and the right archaic DOS word processor to get my brain into the writing zone. And indeed, I spent far too much time and money tinkering with old, limited laptops to strip them down to the bare distraction-free essentials, only to be needlessly distracted by the complexities and frustrations of running Linux and FreeDOS on old, limited hardware. Then I tried the fabled AlphaSmart portable word processor, which worked great for a while, but I ended up getting frustrated by being unable to adjust the dim, pocket-calculator-esque screen to a viewing angle suitable for an adult and typing on a crappy keyboard made to be banged on by children. Then I replaced that setup with a Bluetooth keyboard and an old Android phone with disabled networking. It seemed like unless I shilled out megabucks for the Freewrite e-ink word processor, I was never going to find something that I could put in a backpack, take anywhere, and meet all of my writer’s use cases.
But you know what I discovered that got me to writing? That worked when all of these other technological solutions failed me? That I could do anywhere, at any time, on any screen or scrap of paper I had lying around?
All I had to do… was…
JUST. FUCKING. WRITE.
That’s all it took, but it took many years of starts and stops and restarts and dealing with work and personal trauma and a move across the state and a nervous breakdown brought on by a toxic work environment to figure that out. I just had to stop procrastinating, put down the video games and endless YouTube videos I was using to distract myself from my inner turmoil, and let my inner turmoil out on the page. And you know what word processor I used to complete my magnum opus? It wasn’t from the 1980s nor was it an esoteric Unix text editor made for people with five hands and Ghost in the Shell typing fingers. It was Microsoft Word. I used what I had available. Every work, school, and library computer I’ve ever used had a copy, and it was so easy to sync the drafts to OneDrive. I stopped worrying and learned to love the Evil Empire. It embraced me, I was extended… but I have not been extinguished.
I did switch to LibreOffice near the end, however, mostly because it comes with a built-in EPUB exporter, and a PDF exporter that works so much better than Word’s. I spent all weekend messing around with the manuscript document trying to get it to fit Amazon’s margin and font requirements, and it spent forever to do what I needed to do in Word, but LibreOffice Writer just did it in like three clicks. I also made a perfectly passable even if completely amateurish book cover in GIMP, the open-source equivalent to Photoshop. I am aware that none of these programs are substitutes for professional typesetting and desktop publishing solutions but for a first self-published novel by a completely unknown author I doubt anyone will notice too much. The important thing is that it’s up now, and I am already starting on reviving and rewriting the sequel to this book I started during the pandemic. I’m sure 2020 me will be happy I no longer have to write around the reality about everyone having to wear masks and being unable to leave the house.
YA novel plot that’s been stuck in my head for years
SULLEN TEENAGE REBELS
By Jack Mileur
Based on some cartoons I drew in high school and 20 years of reliving bad high school memories
Coming this fall to FOX!
Fourteen-year-old scrapper Jack Dinero has been waging a one-man war against the inner-city drug dealers who hooked and killed his mother. However, his vigilante actions have made him a target for every criminal lowlife in the city. To save his son, Jack’s father moves him out to Creosote Canyon, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. But their idyllic dreams of peace and quiet in small-town living would soon be crushed. Creosote Canyon High School is a dilapidated wreck where ruthless teenage bullies terrorize the student body and disrupt the educational process. Jack decides to take them on to protect the innocent, but he’ll not only have to fight the bullies, but a leftist principal with an axe to grind, a sadistic PE coach who has his own twisted agenda, an apathetic faculty who care more about their tenure than their students, and a system designed to keep the good kids down. It’s too much for Jack Dinero to take on alone. Can he make some friends for this fight, or will he be destined to remain a “sullen teenage rebel?”
(Okay, I’m just bored. But I might actually turn this into something someday.)