1 April 2053
Trailer closed his eyes and sat at the end of the bar where the cigarette-burned, cheap black Formica countertop met the wall. He eased himself onto the last stool, tucking into the corner in the dim light, a spider hiding out of sight at the edge of its web. His fingers hovered over the cigarette burns closest to him as if divining their cause, sensing them like small, unhealed wounds, seeing the people involved, learning if each burn was an accident or intentional.
The door opened and he smelled the cool April evening on his skin. It was followed by the alcoholic breath and sweat of two men and a woman they supported between them.
Trailer brought his attention back into the bar, collating the activity immediately around him.
The barkeeper, a heavy smelling man gnawing a toothpick, his face somewhere between needing a shave and growing a beard, walked over to Trailer. “Yeah?”
“A beer. Whatever you got.”
The man grunted and walked to the other end of the bar. When he left, Trailer opened his eyes. A river of tattoos flowed up the man’s left arm. An old style claw prosthetic served as his right, its hinges and catches polished like silver and glinting in the mirrored bar light. He wore black jeans and a tie-dyed t-shirt over powerful shoulders and an ample gut. Trailer closed his eyes again as the man returned. It seemed to Trailer that the man swam upstream in a river of his own sweat.
He placed a bottle of Coors in front of Trailer. “Six.”
“Six. Six dollars.”
“Can I run up a tab? I’ll probably stay a while.”
The man shook his head. “Uh-uh.”
Trailer handed him the money and nodded at the prosthetic. “Amazonas?”
The man eyed him and shook his head cautiously. “Loreto.”
“I was there, too.”
The man eyed him a moment longer then nodded as he walked away. “Uh-huh.”
A five-man band walked onto a stage surrounded by a plexiglass cage reinforced with steel fencing, closed the cage door, set up and tested their instruments.
A woman screamed from a room hidden by a beaded curtain.
Trailer stood up. The barman caught Trailer’s shirt in his claw. “You gonna drink your beer or what?”
Trailer stood a head and a half taller than the barman. He said nothing, closing his eyes when the woman screamed again.
“Eddie, Bill?” the barman called out. “We got ourselves a pretty boy here.”
Two scar-faced men got up from a table near the door and walked towards Trailer. He shook his head slowly, searching with his ears as a blind man might search out a strange sound. He moved his head from side to side and made a sound, quiet and deep in his chest, a great cat purring. His head snapped back and shook. He whispered, “No…no,” as if tasting something tart, bitter, something he wanted to spit out.
A Bite of… Joseph Carrabis
Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?
The first and necessary response is “Of course not! Only if some aspect of a belief or sexual orientation is necessary to the plot and moves the story forward.”
I recently took a course about writing characters with beliefs and such different from your own. A major problem with the course was the unrecognized bigotry and prejudice of the instructors. I kept listening to the language they used and asked questions (based on my experiences in psycholinguistics, anthrolinguistics, and cultural anthropology). It seemed the instructors were more going from their gut than any research about minimizing and subjugating language.
This gets into the question of sensitivity readers, as well. Some authors I know have had their manuscripts gutted by sensitivity readers who had no concept of a story or its setting.
Example: A reader thought my use of “motorcycle momma” demeaning. That phrase is used in a scene taking place in a biker bar with the protagonist surrounded by bikers. I had to question if the reader ever entered a biker bar, hung out with biker gangs, et cetera. A reader thought a military scene homosexual in nature because one male appreciated the fit of another male’s dress blues.
I cancelled my contract with that publisher because their readers left much to be desired.
That noted, do a sensitivity read and make suggestions that makes a book stronger, increases the power of the story, et cetera, and I’m there with pen in hand and please tell me more.
What is worse? Ignorance or stupidity?
Ignorance because, to me, true ignorance is an unwillingness to learn. Ever since my teens I’ve loathed people who refused to learn and those who refused to do something (which I define as “incompetence”). To clarify, I define “ignorance” as an unwillingness to learn and “incompetence” as an unwillingness to act.
Do something. You may succeed, you may fail, you may do it and decide it’s not for you, and at least you’ve learned you can do it. You’re no longer incompetent. You may suck at it, but at least you know how to do it.
I know how to paint a house. I suck at it. But if I have to do it, I can do it.
People unwilling to learn are also at the bottom of my list. This stems from my teens and I found it repeatedly in the business world; people who’d rather stick their heads in the ground than learn a new methodology which would save their jobs, company, or industry.
But stupidity? True stupidity? Meaning someone who doesn’t have the cognitive horsepower to understand or do something? Those people I can work with, and gladly. They are a gift. They teach us so much about ourselves and our ability to understand the “other.”
Which brings us back to the first question, essentially about writing from a foreign (to yourself) viewpoint or orientation. An amazing example of this is Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. If you can read that book without your soul being ripped from you, there’s something wrong with your heart.
Do you have any marketing tips for fellow writers?
First, figure out why you’re writing. Do you just want to say you wrote a book and got it published? Excellent! Use any of the online, free publishing tools and you’re done. Good job!
Are you writing because you have something to say? To whom? Decide that, you’re into marketing.
Do you want people to read your book? How many? A few? Friends, family and fools? Publish through LuLu or something similar and give your book out as gifts.
A lot of people? Again, you’re talking marketing. Do you have a background in marketing? Were you any good at it? If you were, then why are you writing books? A successful marketer makes far more money in a month than most authors do in a year (lots more). But most successful marketers burn out and never want to go near marketing again (seeing myself in a mirror, there). Again, if you were a successful marketer you know what’s involved in marketing anything. Do you want to do that again? For yourself? Really? I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Are you (un)lucky enough to find a publisher? Big Caveat there, folks. Find other authors with that same publisher and ask how much marketing that publisher does for them. Does the publisher continually push marketing schemes which end up draining the authors’ budgets without bringing in sales? WARNING, WILL ROBINSON! WARNING! WARNING! That publisher isn’t publishing books, they’re selling authors marketing schemes. Stay away.
Find a publisher who’ll handle all aspects of your product (your book is your product); interior design, cover design, blurb, promotional materials, keyword buys, et cetera, and charge you nothing. Someone or some group calling themself a “publisher” knows how to take a book from manuscript to available digitally and physically and won’t charge you to do any of it because that’s what a true publisher is. Everybody else is a book producer who provides a finished product and then relies on you to do much if not all the sales work.
Book producers are fine, just know the difference before signing a contract. There are lots of sharks in the water looking for fish who are thrilled someone wants to “publish” their book, and I’ve talked with many authors who’ve spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on “publisher” suggested marketing schemes that returned zero profit.
Again, check with other authors under the same publisher. Did they contribute anything beyond a finished and accepted manuscript? Then stay away from that publisher.
Along the same lines, ask to see a sample marketing plan. What does the publisher do? How long will they promote a book before giving up on it?
Joseph Carrabis has been everything from a long-haul trucker to a Chief Research Scientist. He’s taught internationally at the university level, holds patents in a base, disruptive technology, created a company that grew from his basement to offices in four countries, helped companies varying in size from mom&pops for F500s develop their marketing, and most of this bored him. But give him a pen and paper or a keyboard and he’s off writing, which is what he does full-time now.
His most recent novel, The Augmented Man, was published in March 2021 by Sixth Element.
You can find most of his published work on Amazon (and he wishes you would. He wants to know your opinion of his work, specifically how he can do it better). You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, BookBub, YouTube and his blog.