Category: Self Publishing

Took Long Enough, pt 1: People Want the Familiar

Or: The Difference Between Being Told Something and Experiencing it. A note to myself.

Something clicked while I watched Ready Player One with my son. Finally.

A bit past midway of the movie, I caught myself thinking, “yeah, here’s the moment when she thinks he’s betrayed her, and it looks like it’s the end and that things are going to fall apart. Wonder how they’ll resolve this.”

Then, I recalled that I thought just about the same thing in Black Panther. And in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

The movie took me back into its world then, but on the walk home, I realized I could find examples of this from many other movies and books as well:

  • Hero and heroine who start off not liking each other (two heroes or heroines)
  • Eventually, they overcome this dislike
  • They join forces, many times with a dollop of the romantic
  • Then something happens. Many times it’s a misunderstanding, sometimes something beyond the characters’ control leaps between the pair, seemingly putting an end to the new team
  • Now all appears lost

But, this isn’t the Marquise de Sade or Baudrillard, so somehow, someway, something, almost always foreshadowed, will happen, and things will turn out positive. Not necessarily happy. But the bad guys will get defeated, and the pair with newly repaired differences head off to some future or another.

  • Separate, but with mutual respect.
  • Together as firm partners.
  • Or good friends.
  • Or lovers.
  • Or some combo.

If only in memory—heroes do die at the end sometimes. All depends on the flick or book. And the genre.

Fleshing out this truism as I walked home was an idea from an intensive copywriting course I recently completed. In the class, Bryan Cohen beat into us is that people crave the familiar. Therefore, you give it to them.

You write copy that fits genre expectations so someone reading that little bit of text will think, “Oh. This is the kind of book I’d like”, meaning the book will have the expected problems, solutions, etc. that the person likes to read about.

For example, in romance: Each person has an issue, and the question is can they overcome these to find love. It’s what Romance readers read romances for. The same in for any genre. Even literary fiction, which appears not genre by definition, but it always has someone whose life/livelihood is in jeopardy, and if only they find something in themselves will s/he save the day. †

Then these ideas jelled. What I’d superficially known became obvious. To me. At long last.

This is why people watch movies.  Or read books. Consume anything with a story in it:

To find what they crave, something satisfying to them. The kind of story they want to see or read.

Sure, different characters, places, plots, circumstances—different in the details, but fundamentally recognizable.

  • Will Joe and Sally finally find love?
  • Will Joe or Sally finally find it in his- or herself to do the right, the good thing, regardless of personal cost?

That doesn’t mean all heroes or heroines find or do the same thing, in the same way of course. If one is even passingly acquainted with Campbell’s Hero with A Thousand Faces,  the monomyth is familiar: the one great story, in which the details are merely costumes various functions dress in while describing this one basic story.

So, while the details and specifics of the plot of a story are (or should be) unique, it will have the expected, craved, problems and solutions/resolutions of its genre. If it doesn’t, it has little chance of being popular. A cult hit, perhaps, but generally not popular.

I’d known this intellectually. I’d read about it. I’d seen lists of what sells and what doesn’t. I know romance/erotica is the best selling genre.

But only when I was sitting in a movie and heard myself thinking in genre tropes did I actually understand what I knew. That romance/erotica is a best-selling genre because it delivers the needed fix to the reader.

Bottom line:

If it’s genre or sub-genre lit, it will have X, Y, and Z. If not, most readers/viewers won’t like it. And one thing people want, logical or not, is a positive ending *. Life is hard, mysterious, full of disappointments: Why would I spend my free time reading about unremitting misery and failure?

* Notice, not Happy, but positive. Even the hero dying in the end can be positive if they’ve accomplished something imporatnt with his or her life. Unrelenting dark fiction is out there I’m sure, but mostly with a small, cultish following.

Sure new genres do appear. Ones that actually work are freakishly rare.

And if you look at the numbers, take the outside view, books in established genres sell. Literary fiction as a “non-genre” continues to sell less and less. (Especially when the target audience is the author, or “people like me.”)

Now, about what writing what one wants to write vs. writing something to sell—I’m going to follow Jonathan’s lead, from A Perfect Blindness:

            “I don’t want to play between shifts,” Jonathan says. “I want playing to be my shifts. How I make my living. To be what I do. All the time. I don’t give a rat’s ass about art. Purity, selling out—those are just excuses masquerading as virtue for people who can’t make it. I’m done with ramen noodles.”

Back here in Brooklyn, the answer to the question I recently posed—what should I write next? Is that I’m going to write genre fiction. Fantasy. It’s what lit the fire in me to write in the first place. And genre fiction sells. (Fantasy and Scifi are the second best selling genre, it turns out.)

And frankly, I can’t stand answering questions about how a relatively expensive book of literary fiction by a first-time author is selling.

’cause it’s not. Not really.And understandably. For many reasons.

So, I lift my glass to Jonathan who saw this before I did. Art, purity or selling out be damned. (Kills me that I created him and WROTE THAT LINE—YEARS AGO!!!)

Next up from the writing studios of W. Lance Hunt: portal/high fantasy, with a dose of sci-fi. About a middle-aged man (shocking like me) who stumbles on a reality that exists just beyond our own. Magic. Physics. Adventure. It asks the question: what if you could live out your childhood dreams as a middle-aged man. Of being a hero. Saving the world. Being more than a number, a job title, a marital status and an address.

(†I’m explicitly excluding experimental fiction, the sole purpose of which is to defy expectations, which is in itself an expectation, but so very protean. And extra hard to sell for that very reason.)

Know someone who might like one of these stories? Post it or Forward this email to let them in on it.

To join more Adventures in the Interzoneexcursions to the way things might have been or might yet be click here. 

 

What to Work on Next

I need some help. Yours.

Because I keep finding myself saying “I hate everything” or “I’m sooooo unhappy right now,” as I sit at my computer or walk the empty hall of my apartment.

Why? I’m not writing anymore.

Yeah, sure, copywriting is writing. So are writing proposals, and this blog, and emails, and updates, and Tweets and FB posts. But this kind of writing merely needs to be done.

None of it is the kind of writing I want to do.

The kind that made me want to write in the first place, that I’m increasingly desperate to write: fiction. Telling tales of made up people living in alternate worlds, or sometimes alternate lives in our world. I want—no need—to be a guide in the Interzone—excursions to The Way Thing Might Have Been or Could Yet Be.

So an effort to right a foundering ship I’m asking for help.

Yours.

Right now.

Continue reading “What to Work on Next”

An Interview and Refining a Description

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was interviewed by Moresby Press writer Greg Beaubien. He asked several great questions, which lead to the following conversation:

The Cost of Ambition and Deceiving Ourselves: Author W. Lance Hunt Discusses His Novel A Perfect Blindness

As part of the never-ending campaign to help readers who would enjoy reading A Perfect Blindness find it,  I’ve spent a lot of time over the past 3 weeks working on headlines, hooks and one-liners: those bits of short copy that entice someone with far too little time to spend a bit of it, reading a little more. Such like as the first line in a book description, or the bit of text in an advert, that little string of words that a reader glances at before deciding—”oh, that sounds promising” and then clicks on whatever to find out more.

In the case of A Perfect Blindness, this is the copy that will be found in the book (product) description on Amazon, iBook, & Barnes and Noble.

Not long ago, I updated what can be found online after realized that even I wasn’t excited reading it. What’s up now was that baby step to repair a wrecked launch. What will be up next week will be a leap forward.

So I ask you, would you read or recommend this book:

Jonathan has the talent. Scott has the drive. They’ve put it all on the line for their band. Now they discover the true price of everything they’ve had to sacrifice.

At the beginning of this striking novel, two longtime friends face the crushing realization that the fame and freedom they’ve been chasing for years might be nothing but a fantasy. Then on an unplanned trip to Chicago with its vibrant music scene, they abruptly abandon everything for that city and one last shot at making it.

In Hunt’s hands, this “sharply atmospheric” tale of struggling to matter and escape anonymity becomes something far greater: a dazzling dive into our deeply human need to connect with another person. The story first swings between Jonathan’s voice, whose world is full of passion, opportunity—and near impossible choices—and Scott’s voice, whose world turns on power, control—and avoiding his role in a close friend’s death. Soon joining this duet, Jennifer’s voice brings a world steeped in the imagery of TV, films and magazine advertising.

No other writer working today moves as effortlessly between such startlingly different points of view. Harnessing their contradictions, Hunt is finally able to demand answers to the questions of how it’s possible to create anything of beauty or even love when we are all just the misunderstood characters in the stories other people tell themselves.

As Jonathan, Scott, and Jennifer each struggle to find a personal answer to these questions, late 80s Chicago is resurrected in “masterful detail” and a band that readers will wish had existed comes vividly to life. In the end, it’s hopeful, tragic, and triumphant in turn, ultimately claiming its place as “a worthy […] addition to the literature of rock n’ roll’s agony and ecstasy”.

If you liked Ellis’s Rules of Attraction or Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet or just always wanted to play “live on stage, ” you’ll love this passionate ode to friendship, love, and the need to create.

Get A Perfect Blindness today and experience the madness and joy of rock’n’roll dreams.

This strikes much closer to what the book is really about: being a human trying to find some sort of connection, when who we really are hangs someplace between the stories, suspended in the contradictions.

 

 

 

Interview First Broadcast Today 4/5

It will be rebroadcast later this week, and then available as a podcast right here on Wlancehunt.com and aperfectblindness.com.

 

Listen, enjoy and let me know what thoughts it provokes.

Truth to Power Interview airs 4/5 @ 9 am

An interview with me, talking about A Perfect Blindness, how and why I wrote it, Chicago back in the day, and other assorted ideas related to writing, novels, and the nature of truth will air on Radio Free Brooklyn, Thursday, April 5th.

No automatic alt text available.

Vijay Ramanathan is with W Lance Hunt at Radio Free Brooklyn.

Author of A Perfect Blindness W Lance Hunt sat down with me and the result airs April 5 @ 9am on Radio Free Brooklynrfb.nyc/ttp

 

Now, my interview on WGNtv got bumped off because of Baseball. You see, Chicago has two teams with opening weeks: the Cub and White Socks, and well, an obscure chronicler of Chicago three decades ago isn’t quite the draw. BUT, and here is I told him I was planning on making a video of the same points, he asked me to let him know when it’s up and running. So, I might sneak past the baseball bump after all.

 

Thanks for reading, and hope to hear from you. Keep your eyes peeled for more.

 

—Lance

Squinting like Blondie

“Of course,” Scott says. “Your life as performance art.”

            The night only gets worse. Sean walks out as soon as he closed up his bass’s case and picked up its stand. Marsha demands we drop of her drum kit at her house and won’t stay. Breaking down with only two of us is a real bitch—especially lugging those W-bins with Scott.

Dropping off Marsha’s drum kit, Scott’s pissed in that crazy quiet way that makes me nervous, squinting like Blondie from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He says nothing on the way back home.

            I know I fucked up and burned bridges. Yet what really cuts into me is that Amy didn’t deserve that.

            But what were you even doing there? You said you’d be working all night on whatever the hell project it was. I needed to talk to you. Alone.

            Now that’ll never happen.

Mercurial Visions Memorabilia

When Scott and Jonathan founded Mercurial Visions with AnnMarie and Nancy, they had little more than hope and energy. Below is a collection of CD artwork, articles and the like from the four years they were together 1988-92, starting with:

the official home of Mercurial Visions, right through this link. 

Discography

From 1988, their Self-Titled EP “Mercurial Visions” (self-recorded and published)

From 1989, their breakout CD, Joie de Vivre, on Wax Trax! Records

PRESS

Their first review, from the Chicago Reader 7/20/1988

See Them Before They Vanish

A Review of Joie de Vivre Chicago Tribune 1/18/1989

Joys of Love, Loss, and Clubs

More stuff in the offing.

Know someone who might like this? Post it or Forward this email to let them in on it.

Any thoughts or comments. I’d love to hear them

To join Adventures in the Interzoneexcursions to the way things might have been or might yet be click here. 

Some of the Venues, Pt. 1

As more than one reviewer has commented that the level of description and attention to detail in A Perfect  Blindness makes it stand apart.

 

[…] Hunt successfully conjures the story’s time and a place in masterful detail.

An expansive historical novel that ably evokes its time and place.

—Kirkus Reviews

[…] packed with references to the streets of Chicago, popular and underground music, and an insider’s knowledge of the technical side of the life of a musician.

—Forward Clarion Reviews

The links below offer a sampling of scenes—all pre-smartphone and full of smoke—in which

     “[…] Hunt’s tireless, Jagermeister-fueled nightcrawlers give us a complete tour of North Side rock clubs in the ’80s—and of their own failings.”

—Blue Ink

 

The Sounds of A Perfect Blindness

In A Perfect Blindness, it’s always the late 1980s-early 90s

In Chicago with short trips to Columbus, Ohio, including visits to a mix of bars long gone, invented clubs, and a few establishments that have survived the decades.

The music is synthpop and industrial, usually danceable, a blend of bands you’ll remember, other maybe not, and glimpses of Mercurial Visions, the band that never was, but you might wish had been.

Listen to all the songs, or cuts from CD or albums, listened or danced to, or whose lyrics were spoken, thought of or bent into the shape of descriptions, including the ones that inspired Mercurial Vision songs in the novel. Roughly in order. Sixty-two songs from Depeche Mode, Joy Division, the Sisters of Mercy and Wax Trax Records’ artist RevCo, A Split Second, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Mistry, plus the Boomtown Rats, the Eurythmics, Terminal White and more.

 

For the sights of the sounds of what was on the air and in the clubs in Chicago, back in 88 to 91, indulge in the YouTube list here.

 

If you like what you hear, Join the Adventure.

Click on “Adventures in the Interzone” right below
AdventuresintheInterzoneV2 295x

 

Join the Adventures in the Interzone today for exclusive outings to the way things might have been or might yet be, walking alongside people as they strive after dreams, fight back at disaster, struggle with demons in both themselves and othersOnce on board, you’ll get first class tickets for every agon and tempting glimpse, including more playlists built around the clubs and time of  A Perfect Blindness.

Know someone who might like this? Post it or Forward in an email to let them get in on it too.

Relentlessly Helping People Who Would Enjoy *A Perfect Blindness* Find It

There is a lot of advice for new authors. Books. Blogs. Newsletters. All overflowing with advice. A riot of tips, strategies, and essential to-dos. One of the most common is to blog. To be relentlessly helpful. To offer tips, strategies, and best practice to-dos for the potential audience for your book. To give it away as honey to attract the reader-bees to buy your book (or service).

Examples abound.

It makes sense.

I did it.

One thing most advice givers give is that a writer must watch the numbers: the likes, follows, people signing up for your mailing list, and ultimately, people buying your book to know what works, and what doesn’t.

I did this too.

A handful of likes, here and there, scattered followers on this or that post. Nary a book sold.

I dutifully put onto one side of a balance scale all the hours per week spent creating and distributing the content and on the other side the number of book sales (the end reason for doing this), as well as followers and likes on the other.

The scale immediately fell over to one side: it’s been a waste of time.

What gives?

After probing the nagging suspicion that most of this advice is given with non-fiction in mind, using nonfiction authors as the primary examples, with fiction as an afterthought at best, I was forced to reexamine this whole idea.

  • How can a fiction writer be relentlessly helpful?
  • What can fiction writers blog about to create content to give away, to stir up excitement for a book?
  • To get people interested in their fictional world?
  • To get people interested the author as the teller of tales?

After far many months of fruitless labor, I finally googled it.

(Don’t laugh that it took this long. Failure is a far greater motivator than success and an infinitely better teacher.)

To sum up the general thinking: unless you’re a literary star, or are a true expert in the same field as your fiction is, blogging is wasting time better spent on getting the rest of your platform in order, perfecting your sales copy, and working on outreach, especially with influencers and reviewers.

Huh, damn.

Sifting through further advice for fiction writers, I sought examples specifically for creators of things that don’t exist.

Only then did I come to realize that being helpful for a fiction writer is very different than for a non-fiction writer.

Some advice tries to twist the meaning of expertise into dealing with philosophical problems or life issues, but these contortions miss the real point.

Fiction writers don’t (typically) write to help people solve specific problems. The whole idea of being helpful needs to be flipped. [Social activist fiction is unique in this regard, and blogging about the issues in the book could help sell it, but still…]

What a fiction writer needs to do is be relentless in helping people who would in enjoy the book find it, and in helping those people who are reading it enjoy it more.

So my blog will cease being a blog in a traditional sense.

It will become a sandbox, a place for experimenting with ways to help people find the worlds I’ve build and once in that world, helping people get the most out of being there. Perhaps even enjoying it long after it’s finished.

And so that is what “One Candle in the Darkness” will shift to—a place to invite readers. Both those initiated into A Perfect Blindness’s world of the late 80s Chicago music scene, where we are all just misunderstood characters in the stories other people tell themselves, and those who haven’t yet discovered how much they would like it.

Welcome to The Interzone a space where I host jaunts to the way things could have been and offering glimpses at the way things still might be, places where people strive after dreams, fight back at disaster, struggle with demons in both themselves and others. Enjoy.

 

Know someone who might like this? Post it or Forward this email to let them in on it.

Any thoughts or comments. I’d love to hear them

To join Adventures in the Interzone: excursions to the way things might have been or might yet be click here.