7 books that shaped me and my writing

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A friend of mine recently got a tattoo on his arm of his favorite quote from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, complete with a background image of the legend’s home in Key West. It ranks among some of the more interesting tattoos that my friends have. (I have another friend with Stevie Wonder on his arm, so keep your Chinese symbol for “table” hidden.) It got me thinking, what sort of literary tattoo I might add to my collection of zero tattoos. What are the books that have had an impact on me? I’m not going to list To Kill a Mockingbird, or A Farewell to Arms because they show up on a lot of lists. The books below books deserve more attention.

I will start with the book that made me want to write. The book that I will make sure that my son reads, and if he doesn’t I will tie him down and read it to him: Education of a Wandering Man, by Louis L’Amour. I read this memoir at the perfect time of my life. I still remember my dad handing it to me out of nowhere, and saying “read it.” I was about to head to college and he didn’t make many book recommendations. L’Amour tells his story of dropping out of school and hopping freight trains west across the country. He recounts taking a job, watching someone’s mine in the desert, his only companion for weeks on end were the books of the previous mine-sitter, who’d gone crazy from loneliness. L’Amour tells of his personal growth in relation to the great books he read and the places he traveled when he read them. Of course, the man went on to be a prolific writer of pulp westerns, many of which I read on weekends at my grandfather’s house.

The Power of OneBryce Courtenay. A trusted source suggested this book to me, and by the title I thought it was going to be some sort of Tony Robbins, Oprah “Secret” book from the self help shelf. The Power of One is an epic coming-of-age story set in apartheid South Africa. So good that I almost hesitate to say more about it, but its climax is so perfectly written, it was painful for me because as I was reading it, I knew that few books would ever match it.

power of one

Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose. The king of narrative non-fiction. This book is not only great because of the meticulously researched and amazing story it tells, but it gives an eye opening perspective on our perception of this country not too long ago. I could have picked another Ambrose book, but this one is essential reading.

The Firm, John Grisham. “What? The Firm? You had a great list going and now…” Hear me out. I was a freshman in college and everyone was reading The Firm. And I went to Florida State University, so for everyone to be holding any book is impressive. I choose the firm, not because it’s the best in its genre, or particularly noteworthy, other than for me it was the first book that I read as an adult as it caught that wave of success to Tom Cruise-movie-stardom. It’s not Grisham’s best book, but to 19 year-olds at the time, everyone wanted to write like Grisham. The movie was okay, with Wilford Brimley being all villainy, and Tom Cruise running everywhere. Walk, dude, blend in.

Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond. Want to really understand the world? Why Europe and North America prosper, why indigenous tribes matter, and why Africa can’t get it together? Read this book. Shame on you if you haven’t. Another important one is 1491 by Charles Mann.

In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson. Another great narrative non-fiction writer, this story of the US Ambassador to Germany, in the run-up to World War Two is an amazing tale of an academic who finds himself in what his predecessors had treated as a ceremonial position. It gets more interesting when his daughter starts dating a Nazi.

The final, but most important book in my list is a sentimental one. Essential reading for anyone in Florida, Land of Sunshine, State of Dreamsby Gary Mormino is a social history of modern Florida. Dr. Mormino has quite possibly read every single edition of every Florida newspaper EVER. When I worked across the courtyard from him at USF St. Pete, he’d drop by my office with 1938 newspaper clippings about the topics I was researching. And he did this for dozens of people. More significantly, I met my wife at one of his book signings. The poster for that signing hangs in our kitchen.

I look back at this list and only two of the seven are fiction. The Catcher in the Rye was a huge book for me, but what can I say that hasn’t been said. I read Gone With the Wind, all 1,024 pages, in 8th grade (for school.) I loved Never Let Me Go, and Gone Girl. But I tend to get sucked in to the amazing histories that we don’t know. That’s one reason I was inspired to write The Grandfather Clockand while the entire book isn’t about Nazi conspiracies, a very intriguing theory plays a major role in the third act. I find it beyond fascinating that there is a significant number of people, who aren’t crazy, who take the fact that Hitler lived in Patagonia after the war as fact. If Bin Laden can hide for a decade a major city in the 2000s, could the story of Hitler in Argentina be true? I don’t really care, but it made for fun storytelling.

Drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com and sign up on the left for updates to this blog. I think I’ve got a name for the follow-up to The Grandfather Clock and I wrote a couple more scenes last night. It’s ramping up and I’m confident of a summer release. Thanks for reading!

Jonathan Kile

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How my book became an “Urban” Legend.

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Over the course of 2 days 17,000 people downloaded my book for free. Way more than I ever expected. In that time, it peaked at #3 for all FREE books on Amazon. 1,000 to 2,000 downloads per hour. Things got really entertaining when it came to the sub-genres. See, Amazon has a million genres to help readers find what they really like. So, if you’re in to suspense, there’s a litany of sub-categories. There IS a difference between “Ghost,” and “Horror” in the Suspense category. Somewhere along the way, my book ended up in “Urban Fiction.” Okay, the book is set in several urban settings, New Orleans, Paris, Southern California, so what’s the big deal? Apparently, Urban fiction relates to specific types of urban settings. Here’s a few REAL titles from the top free Urban Fiction books:  A Child of a Crackhead II (there are 6 in the series, so who am I to judge?) Secrets of a Side Bitch, and my favorite: Money Over Errythang. So, for about 3 hours, on Wednesday, my books was the #1 Free Urban Fiction download. Let me rephrase that:

My book, with the swastika in the background, was the #1 Urban Fiction download. 

A few emails to Amazon later my book had settled back in to Suspense, Adventure, Mystery. There was a brief period where it camped out in Paranormal which made me question whether my illustrious launch team had finished the book, but hey, 17,000 downloads. There’s a category for errythang: REAL TITLE: Love Me Love My Horse: 50 Shades of Amish LoveIt’s #93 in Amish Romance. Did you hear that, Harrison Ford?

This is actually what’s great about Amazon. None of these books could exists without Amazon. But now, someone can write them, and someone can read them. That’s what it’s all about.

So it’s back to reality. Selling books.

The only way to sell more books is to write more books so I’m back to writing the follow-up to The Grandfather Clock. I’m at the midpoint of the first draft, and would like to knock it out in the next month and get it in the hands of my early readers and editor. I’m looking for a few people to read the first draft when it’s done and give me feedback. If you’re interested, drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Be aware that I’m going to have to throw in a few nuns raising miniature horses.

Wait… that already exists in Texas.

Is there anything better than this? I don't think so.

Is there anything better than this? I don’t think so.

Results of the Epic Re-launch, Phase One

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It’s good to know the right people.

About a year ago, a co-worker of mine called me to tell me that one of our former colleagues, a rep from one of our suppliers, was going to be in a nearby town and that I should go to dinner with them. The colleague had recently quit his Fortune 500 company job to pursue various entrepreneurial channels. This made me nervous.

“Is he going to try to sell me Amway?”

On a Thursday night, I drove 80 miles to a inland Florida town whose fast-food restaurant ratio is matched only by the number of golf cart driving seniors, and a lack of golf courses. We were supposed to eat “the nicest steak restaurant in town.” Except, “Manny’s” had a two hour wait. So… we ended up at Sonny’s BBQ. Nothing against Sonny’s, but I don’t need to drive 80 miles to eat at Sonny’s. 

They all look like this.

They all look like this.

At this dinner, our newly unemployed, un-housed, free spirited friend did not try to sell me Amway, or anything else. I was rather offended (not really). The truth is, he’s just a nice guy and wanted to keep in touch. Now… here’s where it gets interesting. While my co-worker (god bless him) was explaining his intricate and obsessive compulsive system of notebooks that he uses to manage his accounts (hi Jim), I told Austin that I was publishing a book. Furthermore, I told him he should write a book about what he was doing, and publish it himself.

Now… he may never admit this… he may say he’d already had the idea… but I think I sparked the idea.

Of course, while I was still editing my book, he went to Vietnam and Thailand, wrote his book, published it, and went #1 in 27 different categories within two days. He’s so good at marketing eBooks that he did someone else’s and hit another home run. And thus, The Epic Book Launch was born. He’s got like a million clients, a waiting list, and a guy who follows him around, strictly to keep lint off his shorts (made that last part up, but can’t be sure it isn’t true.)

I got lucky. Before this concept took off, Austin agreed to test his methods on a fiction book… MINE… for a percentage of the proceeds. I quickly did the math and realized that getting 100% of practically nothing is not as good as sharing something. 

Get to the Point

So, yesterday was part one of my Epic Launch. Web pages were up, Social Media readied, people were prepped to share the good news of The Grandfather Clockavailable for FREE.

At 7:30am, I sent a bunch of emails, posted on my blog, and hit my social media points. The launch team then unleashed the torrent of promotions (I don’t even really know), and applied what can only be described as “magic.”

  • At 9am I had 40 downloads. Easily my best day ever, but… not exactly noteworthy.
  • At 11am, 650 people had downloaded it. Whoa. I don’t know 650 people.
  • Noon, 1,250. Cool, I thought. I started telling my wife.

Somewhere, mid afternoon, something caught. There had been a goal (which I thought was a pipe-dream) of hitting 10,000 downloads. That milestone was passed at dinnertime.

Surely it would eventually slow down. And it did. but not before over 16,000 people had downloaded my book. I sat at #1 on several categories and was the #3 FREE Book in all of Kindle-land. I stopped getting updates at about 11:30pm.

So… SORRY… it’s not FREE anymore. 

Late this afternoon, the price of my book went to (a still ridiculously low) 99 cents. All of my rankings on the “FREE” list evaporated and I stepped in to the reality of selling my work again. In less than 4 hours, I’ve sold more books than I had sold since November. More significantly, More than 17,000 people have my book on their Kindle.

Phase 2 of the Launch is to carry the momentum into paying customers, and serious readers (people who read a lot). I’ve got 20 Free books in my Kindle account that I’ve never opened. I get it. If I pay for a book, even 99 cents, I’m going to at least start reading it.

As of this moment, 9:30pm, March 19, I am ranked #63 on the paid list of Adventure Fiction. #79 is Cormack McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Yes, he’s sold approximately 30 million more books than me, but today we’re on the same list. I probably haven’t earned enough money today to afford a dinner out, but it’s very gratifying to know that so many people have the opportunity to read my book.

#63 with a bullet.

#63 with a bullet.

Stay tuned for more. The next couple of days should be pretty interesting. Many thanks to Austin Netzley and Joe Schaffer. Austin has an awesome blog and podcast at YoProWealth. If you self publish, check out Epic Book Launch. And if you’re hungry, Sonny’s has great brisket.

Drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com. @jkilewrites on Twitter. And please tell me what I need Instagram for.

Free book on Kindle today! The Grandfather Clock

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FWhitehouse design (2)

Today is the “re-launch” of The Grandfather Clock  (the book, not an actual clock) and the best part: It’s FREE. Today and most of tomorrow you can download the Kindle version for free. What? You don’t have a Kindle? Well, whatever device you are using to read this has a free Kindle App available (PC, Mac, Android, iPad, Windows Phone, heck, probably even Blackberry).

There’s no catch, BUT I would love it if you would leave a review. Reviews help Amazon recommend it to other interested readers. Why give away this book that I’ve invested so much time in to? Building a bigger audience. I’m releasing two books in 2015 and it’s time to find more readers.

I’ve got a launch team helping promote the book over the next few days and weeks. I’ll be sure to update you on what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks!

-Jonathan

jkilewrites@gmail.com

Three Writers, Three Bars, Many Bad Decisions

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This week, St. Petersburg has been enjoying the first ever “Sunlit Festival.” The Sunlit Festival has featured everything from honoring the city’s Poet Laureate, Mad Libs in a Bar, A Poetry Night Hike and a Literary Pub Crawl. I was invited to offer my prose to the Literary Pub Crawl. Instead of getting up in front of a group of strangers and friends and reading a random excerpt from my book for 10 minutes, I partnered with two writers from Keep St. Pete Lit for a something a little different. See, we all write fiction, but in different genres. Cathy Salustri writes Romance with a Florida angle (as well as Florida travel), and Shelly Wilson writes… well… if I told you I’d spoil it.

So I wrote Part I, a story based loosely on a friend’s real life experience (I mean, no, it’s totally fiction. It never happened. What am I saying?) Cathy picked up where I left off, and Shelly brought the whole thing home (and crashing down.) We had two readings. The one at Green Bench Brewing (great place) could have been better if this obnoxious guy hadn’t been yammering at the bartender through the 2nd act. The second reading at Bodega on Central  had the audience in tears and me considering a career in comedy.

Before we get to that… keep an eye out for Wednesday’s (March 18) promotion of The Grandfather Clock. I promise you will have enough money in your pocket to buy it.

Reading at Bodega on Central.

Reading at Bodega on Central.

So, here it is. At the end please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Three Writers, Three Bars, Many Bad Decisions:

Part I – by Jonathan Kile

(The audience was instructed to take a drink every time the term “Craft Beer” was used. Feel free to play along at home.)

It actually felt good. Having that drink thrown in my face. Refreshing. Key West in August is an egg frying in the melted butter of the Florida Straights. And yes, it’s the first time I have had a drink thrown in my face. And it wasn’t just like a movie. In a movie, they toss two ounces of water and everyone looks shocked. No, this was a half pint of craft beer. A half pint of craft beer goes a long way. Specifically, it soaked my face and my shirt; the sun-dress of the woman next to me; the bar; and a basket of conch fritters that I hadn’t finished eating. The bystanders? They were shocked. But they didn’t just return to what they were doing when Missy and her entourage walked out the door, stumbling in their completely ridiculous footwear. No, instead, I was in a dueling piano bar and paid entertainers spent ten minutes with some of the best improv material they’ve been handed in a long time. They wrote a song called Southernmost Break Up. It was funny.

I didn’t intend to break up with my girlfriend on my birthday, on the surprise Key West trip that she’d planned. I had been trying to break up for months. First, I thought I’d slow things down, be aloof and see if she got the hint. It actually made it worse. It made me more appealing to her. Then I started disagreeing with her on major issues and minor ones too. I had to prove we were incompatible. It got complicated because I had to remember where I stood on things such as the Pope, euthanasia, and organic dog food.

Oh, before you think I’m a sexist pig, let me explain myself. I started dating Missy when I crash landed back at my parent’s house in the Ft. Lauderdale suburbs. Twenty-nine years old and sleeping underneath my old Dan Marino poster. I was that guy. I knew it was temporary, but that didn’t help in the dating pool. Missy was a friend of my sister’s, five years younger, and didn’t mind dating a guy who lived with his parents and still had a checking account with his mother’s name on it. Okay, you can feel free to think I was misleading her, but that was only supposed to be temporary too.

“Your birthday is coming,” my friend Dave said. “What are you going to do when you turn 30?” Dave was a coworker who, unlike me, had matured, gotten promoted and bought a townhouse. And Dave needed a roommate to help afford 713 square feet of Ft. Lauderdale.

I circled that hot August day on my calendar. I must break up with Missy before my birthday. See, I’d met her on my 29th birthday. Yes, indeed. It was not only my birthday, it was our anniversary. I could not let it come to that.

I’m a procrastinator. I waited until the night before. It seemed safe. Friday night happy hour, big group of people, I’d break up just before the night was over, she’d hitch a ride home with a friend and I’d get to spend my birthday with my family, not answering my phone. You can say it: I get what I deserve.

Dave knew the day was coming, but he didn’t know when. I paid my tab, and he followed suit. “Wait,” I said. “Give me a few minutes.” And I led the unsuspecting Missy into the night air, thick with moths and close thunder. It was ominous. A rain began to fall and the next thing I knew were were sitting in Dave’s car. I was breaking up, but a South Florida monsoon was raging. She couldn’t leave the car. And inexplicably, Dave was pounding at the window to get in.

More inexplicably, Dave took a genuine concern for our conversation and began consoling Missy and asking me if I was doing the right thing. He started weaving a tale of how Missy was trying to be what she thought guys wanted her to be, when that isn’t her at all, and it’s all this big misunderstanding. My breakup was derailed. No one could exit the car and I was feeling remorseful, so we drove home, my work completely undone.

Only Missy could enthusiastically give an anniversary present the morning after an attempted breakup. A watch. What do you do when your girlfriend gives you an anniversary present on the morning after you tried to break up with her? You certainly can’t say you got her a present and you’ll give it to her later. But wait, there was more. My hope of making an excuse that I had to spend the evening with my parents only to go out with my friends afterward was derailed by the big surprise. A two night trip to Key West. Happy 30th birthday.

It was a long day. A long drive. And there was another surprise. Missy’s friend Tanya and her boyfriend were meeting us there. I texted my curses at Dave. I informed my sister that I had been kidnapped. Both were unsympathetic. At one point, we sat  on a bridge for an hour without moving. I looked out over the perfect blue water and knew that I was the one to blame for this situation. It was a long way down to the water. Were there sharks?

By early evening, I was beginning to embrace the situation. Key West is a great place to spend a birthday. I had a quick dip in the pool to wash off the drive and I was ready to retrace Hemingway’s path. Surely we’d start at Sloppy Joe’s… or Hemingway’s real haunt, Captain Tony’s. Missy then informed me that no, we needed to start at a bar called Irish Kevin’s.

Okay. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Irish Kevin’s. It just didn’t conjure images of Olde Key West for me. Missy said it was because I’m Irish and Tonya was meeting us there. This is where it got interesting.

The sun was still high in the sky as we entered the darkened bar. A stage act was doing a musical comedy routine, and some sort of celebration was happening. My eyes could barely adjust. Then I heard it. The celebration was for me. This was not the Applebee’s staff bringing me a sundae and getting back to work. The entire bar was cheering for me. But something was off. A laugh, out of place, almost sinister. A cold chill went down my spine and my eyes dilated. There was Dave and his brother Joe. My sister and two cousins. And that out-of-place laugh, Sam, who must have flown in. Everyone was yelling some version of “Surprise” including the performers on stage. In a matter of seconds Dave gave me a look that said, “I’m sorry I didn’t let you break up with Missy last night.” But it was the look on Sam’s face. And Joe’s, and two or three other of my friend who’d come to “shock” me. They all had these knowing, sarcastic grins that said, “I”m having fun at your expense.” They all knew what had been going on the night before.  I could see the flurry of text messages between them and Dave as they boarded planes, and packed bags while he tried to save my relationship for one more day.

I had been punked. Old ladies were commending Missy for the elaborate plan. I know what you’re thinking: “Man, you’re a jerk. You don’t deserve her.”

Our celebrity status in the bar faded quickly as tourists churned in and out the door. But there was one woman, sitting at a booth with a friend. I felt like I knew her from somewhere, but I couldn’t quite place her. We locked eyes once, and I was sure she recognized me too.

At one point I pulled Sam aside. I asked if we might have known her in college. “You mean the hot one with the really straight dark hair?” he said, practically pointing at her.

“Yeah,” I said, knowing that my cover was completely blown.

“She is familiar,” Sam said. “Wait… it’s coming…” Sam closed his eyes and took a swig of watered-down rum. “Beth! Beth Peters! She worked at Po Boys.”

“Oh, man,” I said, memories flooding back. I began to sweat.

“Wait!” Sam said with glee, “Isn’t she the girl that you…”
“Shut up,” I said, cutting him off.

“Oh, man you definitely need to go talk to her.”

I held up my hand to stop him, but it was too late.
Tanya had been waiting for a drink at the bar and overheard us. She was already whispering in Missy’s ear. Sam was still laughing.

Beth got up from her table. My knees buckled. Missy was approaching, and it seemed there was a spotlight on me. Beth passed close to me and said two words as she walked past. “Can’t talk.”

Ten seconds later I was wearing a craft beer.

Part II – by Cathy Salustri

No one ever tells you about the mosquitoes on Key West, probably because the drunk college kids and middle-age cruise passengers are actually so much worse, but the mosquitoes are a close third in terms of “reasons not to live here.”

I chewed on the inside of my cheek as the bartender apparently did his level best to drive home the idea of “Island Time” while getting my drink. I shook my hair, letting it fall over my face. Maybe that way he wouldn’t recognize me.

Look, I’m not that girl – the one who hops from relationship to relationship, always needing a man on my arm. Or, actually, a woman. I grimace and glance quickly at Ingeborg and then back down at the bar. I’d come to realize that as much as I supported equality, I really wasn’t cut out for lesbianism, or even bisexuality. This had been a crushing blow to my sense of enlightenment: The cold reality is, I can’t stand women. Women are too messy. All the talk about feelings and sweet baby jesus, lesbians were the worst, with their endless processing.

I thought leaving Irish Kevin’s and heading to the Orchid –one of the quieter, classier bars on the Isle of Bones – would keep Ingeborg calm. I figured a tiny, craft cocktail bar would be the perfect place to give Ingeborg the talk that started with “It’s not you, it’s me” and ended with the totally meaningless “We can still be friends.”

I never expected he would follow me. He clearly had his own problems. His girlfriend had just soaked him with craft beer. Certainly he had greater concerns than trying to place my face. That memory sent the acid racing up my esophagus faster than Richard Petty around the racetrack.

But I digress; I need to tell this in order of the many, many bad decisions that led to the best bar fight Key West had seen in 100 years, or so they would tell me later. In my defense, I really did try and avoid that fight. You’ll see.

As I said, I don’t need to be in a relationship, but I do like sex. A lot. And so when I was going on four months of abstinence – an unprecedented blight, in my opinion – I started to make less than stellar decisions when choosing a partner. It’s like wearing beer goggles all the time. So about ten years ago, I babysat this kid, Lucy. I was fresh out of grad school and had ideas that I would sit in sidewalk cafes and write. It was a grand plan, and it worked – until the letters from Sallie Mae started arriving. I needed cash and had never learned to bartend, so I worked odd jobs. This kid was one: The mom was a flight attendant, because apparently that’s still a thing, and her dad had a security detail for my dad. I watched Lucy when he had to work a late shift, because she was a teenager on the edge of disaster and couldn’t be trusted home alone. When her dad came home, she’d be in bed and not out drinking with her older brother’s friends, and I’d go home and write. It wasn’t ideal, but I was writing and making money, so it I felt like I was at least pointing my life in the right direction. A good decision, right?

Well, until the morning I ended up in bed with Lucy’s dad. There’s no way to make that sound better than it was, because what it was was pretty damn shitty. We started talking. He’d had a little scotch. So had I. Scotch coupled with my currently-celibate condition led to us making out. We were in the bedroom when we both realized what was happening, and we stopped.

See that wouldn’t have been such a bad decision… if I hadn’t slept with Lucy’s older brother the next morning. Which I totally did. I was tired, and the couch was lumpy and I thought, hey, her brother’s away at school, I’ll just use his bed, even if it meant sleeping under his creepy Dan Marino poster. But then the bastard came home and apparently didn’t realize I was in his bed, so he climbed in and he looked like his dad, and his dad was really hot, and it had been a long four months. He was naked, he was hot, and he was right there.

It may have been the celibacy talking, but it was the hottest sex I ever had, before or since. But then the dad – yeah, the same guy – came home and caught us. Needless to say, I got the hell out of Dodge, learned to bartend, and never looked back.

Except, of course, this guy I’d been having hot dreams about for the past decade was standing, soaked in craft beer – which, to be fair, is the highest and best use of craft beer – staring at me like he knew me from somewhere. Which he did. And I was there with my girlfriend, in the middle of the The Talk, the one where I wanted to break up with her and she wanted to talk about it because did I mention MY GOD LESBIANS LOVE TO TALK ABOUT IT, and I had a twisting feeling in my gut. We’d come into the bar before the dueling pianos started and I’d tried, in vain, to end it. When it became apparent Ingeborg was not going to just let me end things, I moved the party to the Orchid Bar. Certainly, I reasoned desperately with myself, certainly she won’t cause a scene here. I am not good at endings, largely because I’m a wimp. That tingling in my throat and tight misery in my stomach wasn’t a warning, I told myself. It was just nerves. It would be a crappy hour or two, but by the end of the night this would all be a horrible, distant memory.

Turns out I was half right.

If I want to blame myself – and all evidence suggests I should – I could trace it back to this idea that I was something like a three or a four on the Kinsey Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, even though I’d never looked at a woman and thought much other than “I wish I had her hair” or “I wonder if those are real?” (As I had no breasts of my own to speak of, it was more than an occasional question.) I thought being bisexual was a hip and trendy, yet rebellious and outcast-y, thing to do, and so when I met Ingeborg and she seemed into me, I thought, hey, I can do this.

Turns out I’m even worse at same-sex relationships than I am heterosexual ones. I am a firm zero on that Kinsey scale. Poor Ingeborg. Poor nordic, blonde, perfect Ingeborg. If I were going to be with a woman, I caught myself thinking as I avoided the unrelenting gaze of the guy dressed in Key West IPA, it would be her. I winced as I realized I was: I was with Ingeborg.

I started to worry there was really no way out of this relationship. I wanted to end it, and Ingeborg – tall, blonde, and temperamental Ingeborg – wasn’t having it. I kept trying to tell her it was over, at first gently, actually using the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech, but Ingeborg, having grown up in Oslo, didn’t recognize what I assumed was the universal brush-off line. She kept saying it was OK that it was me, because we could fix me, and putting her arm around me and trying to kiss me, and that’s when I noticed Lucy’s older brother had found his craft-beer-drenched way into the Orchid Bar and, apparently oblivious to the fact that a, I was with a woman and b, in the middle trying to break up with that woman, kept trying to catch my eye. I kept avoiding his gaze. I was suddenly very tired and where the hell was our bartender with my drink?

“Look, Ingeborg,” I tried again. “I think, you know, maybe I might not be attracted to women.”

“Don’t be silly,” she snapped at me, her patience finally wearing thin. “We had sex last night.”

“Well, yes,” I admitted. “But didn’t you ever notice that… well, you know, that I don’t really… you know, that I don’t really respond as, um, easily as you do?”

“Oh, that,” she laughed. “You are older. Older women take longer to get excited.” Ingeborg said this matter-of-factly, as if I were 70 and not 34. I tried not to be offended. The bartender put a glass of Bombay Sapphire in my hand as I organized my thoughts.

“I didn’t order this,” I said. “I wanted a beer. Non-craft. Cheap. Domestic. Nothing brewed with the tears of a virgin or the blood of a unicorn or any of that crap. Do you not have cheap, domestic beer?”

My patience for people was about at its end.

“The drink is from me,” a male voice said over my shoulder. I tensed; Lucy’s brother – Jesus, did I really not know his name? – had a similar drink in hand. Also, he looked even more like his dad, and even though he was marinated in craft beer, I was picturing him as I had last seen him, in all his tan, naked glory. Ingeborg, who just a moment ago seemed clueless as to my imminent heterosexuality, must have finally sensed something, because she put her arm around my waist and pulled me closer.

In retrospect, my next actions were not my wisest. I remember trying to ignore them both, staring at my oysters and, apparently, a lifetime of despair. Then Ingeborg giggled and grabbed at my almost non-existent breast, which is something she’d never done before, and a mosquito landed on my arm, and all of a sudden I had had enough: Enough of the crappy writing and even worse craft beer, of my long-ago Adventures in Babysitting that refused to go sit in the damn corner, of being even worse at being a lesbian than I was at being a writer, and most of all, the fucking mosquitoes.

I looked up at Adventures in Babysitting, back at Ingeborg, then down at the damn mosquito. Then, in a waste of some of the finest gin I couldn’t afford, I downed the Sapphire in one gulp. I slapped at the mosquito, pulled away from Ingeborg, grabbed Adventures in Babysitting, and kissed him. He kissed me back. It was the highlight of my evening.

That last thing I remember was hearing a sharp intake of breath. I broke off the kiss and saw Ingeborg had gone white. Well, she was a Viking, so she was kind of always white. She was just whiter than usual.

That’s when I felt the punch. Adventures in Babysitting’s craft beer hurling girlfriend was definitely not happy. Also, she hit like a girl.

Ingeborg, however, did not. Thankfully, she wasn’t aiming for me. Babysitting got the worst of it.

Part III – by Shelly Wilson

Of course I knew she wasn’t gay. Well, at least after the first few dates. Believe me, no gay woman can resist these hands.

But that didn’t change the fact that we were stuck with each other. Only small tits over here didn’t know it yet.

Back in Oslo, I was a student, minding my own business as all good Scandinavians do, and well on my way to a degree in advanced ski jumping, when I lost a bet. It was a stupid bet, I’ll give you that, but that sort of thing had never stopped me. We were at a state dinner – Norway is very expensive; I was working catering as a side job – and Lars Gundersen bet me I couldn’t pick up the Prime Minister’s wife.

Turns out he was wrong.

Normally Norwegians are more forgiving, but the Prime Minister didn’t find his wife’s interest in me nearly as amusing as I did. I found myself on a plane to Miami as part of a one-person “delegation” to drum up Floridian support for curling. It could have been worse; the Prime Minister was pretty pissed.      

Anyway, there was a series of bullshit appearances planned at hockey rinks, even a nice, if confusing, ride on a float in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade – I still think they thought I was advocating “hurling” instead of curling – but as soon as I had my chance, I split. I ended up in Key West with a hangover and a shamrock tattoo, but I was free.

Or so I thought. A month working odd jobs for some Mafioso – I mean seriously, “Fugiddaboudit” and everything – I met Beth. Dark hair, dark eyes, hot Italian type. I could never resist that. At first, I thought everything was great – she was smart, political, she said she liked craft beer. But it soon became clear that Beth was more interested in the kind of panties I was wearing, than getting into them.

I was about to end the whole experiment when a man in a fedora and sunglasses approached me on the street.

Oh, Beth. She really was a sweet girl. Mom a florist. Brother a schoolteacher. Dad an ultraconservative state representative with eyes on the governor’s office. Turns out there were more than a few political enemies ready to pay for dirt on daddy’s girl. And I, Beth’s lesbian lover, was just the one to supply that dirt.

So I did.

Oh, judge me if you want. Do you have any idea how expensive Key West is? Anyway, that meal ticket currently had her tongue jammed down some ag-ed Frat Boy’s throat. Where the heck had he come from?

Things were not going well.

We were at some fancy cocktail bar – I mean, I had a real napkin in my lap, for godsake– and I knew Beth was trying to break up with me in some way that was so classy I wouldn’t notice. Honestly? The oysters were amazing. But when your rent check is on the table, you notice.

I don’t even care if you think I’m a good person.

So Frat Boy and my girlfriend were still at it, and suddenly there was this hum in the restaurant. At first I thought it was me–just the noise in my head I’d learned to tune out right before a ski jump, the one that says “You’re a lunatic!”–but soon it became a high buzzing–a half dozen Minnie Mouses swearing like a sailors – and then a sort of “Whomp!” that pulled me from my daze.

The blond–the frat boy’s girlfriend standing with half the crowd from Kevin’s–had hit Beth right in front of my face.

I mean, hit her! Blood pooled out from her eyebrow, or maybe it was her nose, dripping on the white napkin tucked into Beth’s tank top. I may never have had more than a passing affectionate thought about Beth, but one solemn fact remained: no one hits my girlfriend. 

So I decked the bitch. Someone shouted “Missy!” – there were suddenly a lot of people around and I thought: what the hell kind of a name is “Missy”?

I shook my hand – damn! I’d forgotten how much it hurt to hit someone in the face – and leaned over the girl on the floor.

Missy. Shit. She was beautiful. Even on the floor I could tell she was half a foot taller than me. I suddenly felt very bad about hitting her. She looked up, murder in her eyes. 

Around us, other punches were being thrown. Tables upturned – I glanced over my shoulder to see Beth rub shrimp cocktail into someone’s shirt – and waiters running around with club soda like it could somehow restore order.

And then a linebacker in a tuxedo lifted Missy, and then me, juggling us over his shoulders like a circus act.

“Everybody out!” he shouted, apparently herding the group of us out the door. I could see only his shinny tuxedo tails as we bounced down the stairs, Missy screeching, “How DARE you!”

I’m telling you, the woman was a spitfire.

And then we were on our butts with half of the rest of the bar, back out in the Key West heat, eyeing each other like caged animals. We were covered in blood and butter and cocktail sauce. 

Missy rubbed her jaw. “You hit me,” she said. “In the face!”

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

I stood up, brushed half a crushed breadstick off of my butt. Somewhere police sirens started up. Most of the crowd was shuffling off and Beth, nose stuffed with napkins, was whispering to Frat Boy. I swear I heard her give him her address. I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

“Well I guess that’s the end of that,” I said to no one.

“What’s so funny?” Missy asked. She had crumbs in her hair.

“Everything is funny, Missy,” I said. “Can I buy you a drink?” She was awfully cute with crumbs in her hair. 

She motioned to her jaw like that might be some sort of dealbreaker. “I don’t even know your name,” she pouted.

I extended my hand to help her up off of the ground. “It’s Ingeborg,” I said.

To my surprise, Missy smiled crookedly and took my hand. “What the hell kind of name is that?”

The END!

Drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Check out Cathy Salustri’s blog HERE. Shelly’s site is down at the moment.

I’m baaaaack. Something “EPIC” is coming…

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Have you missed me?

I know, I know. Weeks and then months of radio silence on the Well Oiled Writer Blog. I’m back with an update, and things are going to heat up even more, soon. In less than two weeks I will be “re-launching” The Grandfather Clock in coordination with a former colleague who has made a little industry of launching independent books. He’s sent more than a dozen books to the top of the Amazon charts, and I’m lucky to have known him before he became a guru in the indy-world. He’s a young guy who likes to use the word “Epic” a lot. More on this at the end of the post….

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post. “Self Publishing,” “Independent Publishing;” call it what you want. There is some startling new data out, regarding the success of self vs. traditionally published authors. Here’s the link if you want to read it first hand (it’s lengthy) http://authorearnings.com/report/the-report/  At the risk of over simplifying, I will summarize: Indy authors of the trade-paperback “genre” fiction market are:

  • Getting better reviews than traditionally published authors
  • Selling more books than traditionally published authors
  • Making more money per book than traditionally published authors
  • Releasing more books per year than traditionally published authors

These statistics are not reserved for the Hugh Howeys and 50 Shades outliers. These are compiled from thousands of books, from the very famous to very obscure. And it makes sense if you think about it. Both worlds have their successes and their failures, but the pay structures are totally different. I’ve known a few traditionally published authors who had an agent, a manuscript, signed with a big publishing house, did a book tour, and didn’t sell out of their first small printing. There’s no shame in that. They made a little money and survive to write another day. It’s just like a self-publisher who puts out a book and has meager sales.

But the dirty little secret is this: Yes, the big publishers have some very famous and very wealthy authors in their stables. But the average writers are doing better on their own. Furthermore, the very famous and very wealthy self-published authors are doing better than their JK Rowling, John Grisham counterparts. The publishers are making more per book than their own writers.

Amazon takes some heat for being a big bad gorilla in the market, able to crush anything in its path, but it has also completely democratized getting published. If the books are good AND you put together a decent marketing strategy, you don’t need to rely on a publisher to be successful… and the data says you’ll be more successful without one. 

I had not planned to devote much (any) energy to marketing my books until I had 2-3 out. But an opportunity has come and I’m going to be promoting The Grandfather Clock strategically so that when my next book comes out, it can pick up the momentum. So I’m telling you now: Don’t buy my book… until March 18th (unless the date changes). Then buy it (it will be drastically discounted for a day or two), and please review it and share it with your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Poppydoodle friends (I made the last one up, but it will exist by next week). When the dust has settled on the relaunch, I’ll report back with an honest detailing of the experience. Stay tuned. Look for another post mid-week.

The Grandfather Clock is now on Facebook. Check it out. It’ll see more activity soon.

One more thing. This week is the first ever SunLit Festival in St. Petersburg. Literary events all week. I’ve been asked to write and read something for Wednesday’s (March 11) Literary Pub Crawl. I will be reading something I haven’t written yet, so it ought to be interesting. For more go here:

March 7 - 14. Poetry hikes, pub crawls, book fair, Kerouac night an more.

March 7 – 14. Poetry hikes, pub crawls, book fair, Kerouac night and more.

Email me at jkilewrites@gmail.com, sign up for updates on the left. Call your parents.