The Writer’s Dilemma

A few days ago. I made the mistake of scrolling too far down on one of my books listed on Amazon and noticed two new reviews. Both of them were 1 star, so of course I was curious as to what these people had to say. One mentioned how they liked the story and that characters, blah blah blah. The other made some short statement about spelling and grammar. This had me pissed off for several hours until I went back trying to figure out why I still had a 4-star rating with these kinds of complaints. It turns out that these two people account for 4% of the reviews on this particular book.

I guess the question is why do I care? Who are these people to say such things and why does it matter to me? One of them I have yet to figure out how they even came across my book. Was the algorithm choking on a virus? I looked at other reviews the person had done and none of the martial was anything like my book. As for the other person who said they liked the characters and story, none of the things they reviews were anywhere near similar to things they preferred. I don’t know their story. I don’t know how they came across it.

The reviews pissed me off. People see that shit and while I wish I could wash it away it is there to stay. If that is how they felt I can’t deny it. They don’t know me and I don’t know them but it does help me understand why Hemingway would show up at the newspaper office with two pairs of boxing gloves and would hound the reviewer outside until he was able to knock him out for the poor review that was published. What a fucking legend!

The first response that comes to my mind is “where is your damn book?” These are the same people that while they criticize my work have not written anything of their own. Did they pay for the material they read? Yes. Besides sitting there and reading it what work did they put in? They paid $2.99 for a book. The last time I bought a new book it was $30 and it was the last book that Anthony Bourdain had worked on before he died. I’m not one to pay large sums of money for a book and since I’m not exactly a professional writer by any means charging more than $2.99 is out of my league. That fact they rad the whole damn things says a lot considering the number of books a put aside unable to finish it for various reasons. And here is where I come to my point.

Who am I writing for? Ultimately it is for myself. I write the books that I would want to read. Action? Check. Fast paced? Check. Situations that make you think? You can check that one off as well. A book written for someone like me isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Much like the books I sat down and forgot about not everyone who reads my stuff is going to appreciate it. There is also the other factor that has been suggested to me several times. “Write at a 3rd grade level to appeal to a larger audience.”

Why do I have to dumb down my writing? What the hell is happening in out public schools that this is the level that is expected for a mass audience? Shouldn’t this be a wake-up call for most of society and why aren’t people challenging themselves to something that works their mind? Imagine trying to publish Infinite Jest today. It would never happen. Our society it lazy and wants a whole lot of things for nothing. I charge $2.99 for digital copies of my books to make myself available to a mass audience. If I make money cool. If I could make a living at it, even better. The number of readers in today’s society is small. I think it might be the smallest percentage that it ever has been. Hundreds of books are published every month and those books fight for a really small number of customers who might buy their product. Then there is me. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. If not, I hope that you find something of mine that you might enjoy. If not, thanks for the short review. I’m glad you put as much work and thought into it as I did writing the entire book. Take care.


Goodbye January, Hello February

January is gone and looking back it was a busy month. Over all I read 39 books, worked out everyday except for 2, and paid about $800 towards the principle on my house. This last week took its toll with the whole household coming down sick with a chest cold. I was the last one to submit to the germs floating around my house. This weekend could have been better, Saturday started out with a light cough and then by Saturday night I felt like pieces of lung where going to start coming up. Sleep was a joke with the little cough coming from the little person in the other room. Blankets made the room too hot or too cold. I’m three days into February and I haven’t done a single workout. Being sick has its advantages though, when was the last time heard of someone gaining weight while they were sick?
At the moment I have six Louis L’Amour books logged into good reads. I own two biographies about the man and I haven’t decided which one I will pick up for the month. I was told by a friend that the stories are dated, especially when it comes to female characters, personally I don’t care. It’s nice to read a tale once in a while that doesn’t try to make up for some social injustice that I didn’t have a part in. the stories are fast paced and I can see how easy it is to lose yourself in the tale as it is being told. L’Amour gives you all that you need to follow along and nothing more. Things are not overly thought out, there isn’t a hidden message to the stories, and one doesn’t have to search for a deeper meaning after reading one of his books. I have heard of these books referred to as “literary trash” but I would have to argue that it is the opposite. Sure, it will never be declared high literature and there is no telling if these books will still be around a hundred years from now, but in their defense, I have to that that they are honest, exactly as described and nothing more. I wish dating was as easy as this when I was in my teens and early twenties. The covers depict what is happening in the story, it isn’t some flashy design to make you question the contents. The titles are blunt. Hell, the only mystery one can find picking these books up off the shelf is the author’s name, something that could be mistaken as French Canadian or from the bayou. I’m three days in and I am not disappointed.


Four weeks into Project 2020

So far, I have only missed one day of working out, and considering how sore I was that day it is good that I did. My workouts have been mostly weight training, building muscle in order to burn more calories later on. I have concentrated more on arms, chest, back, and legs. Abdominal muscles will come into play when I introduce cardio next month. Starting on the first I will alternate between cardio and weight training. The cardio workouts will include enough abdominal exercises to satisfy my need for an ab workout. Weigh in will be on the first of February and hopefully I will see some changes for the past month of work.
My last mortgage bill included the current balance of just over $47,000, which means I have paid almost $1000 on the principle in under a month. My auto insurance prevented me from making another payment, along with a need to buy some food for the next couple of weeks. My stash in the basement is running low and I had to start focusing on protein, vitamin, and mineral replacement. After two weeks of weight training I started to wake up sore, a good indication that I wasn’t eating enough of what my body needed to repair itself.
As of today, I have read 29 books this month. Some of the high lights include Quicksand by Henning Mankell, and Phone by Will Self. I branched off into a few other things along the way and pulled out more books that I had abandoned along the way in the past years. I only set my goal for 2020 in Goodreads to include 100 books and at this rate I might blow past that before the half way point of the year. I have an idea for next year, calling it my big book year. Books I read have to be over 600 pages and I have to start out with Ulysses by James Joyce only because it has been on my list for too many years along with a few other long reads that I have been reluctant to pick up. I have a feeling that many of the books I read this year will find new homes after I read them and that should free up some space after I am done.
As of today, project 2020 is ahead of schedule for most goals. I don’t know how this will end, if my mortgage will be at a more appropriate balance that makes sense to me or if I will have that six pack in five months that I’m planning on. I watched a video on YouTube today about a man who ate his weight in beans in a month and lost some weight doing it. Maybe it would be a fun, yet smelly, goal to set for this project. I haven’t come up with any new goals, food wise, for this project but I am actively looking for things to try.


New year, who are you?

When I started project 2020 I didn’t think that the changes would be as quick as they have been. We are on day twenty of the new year and I already have 25 books clocked into my Goodreads account, the most involved, Phone by Will Self, I finished earlier today. The first full length Will Self shouldn’t have been the third installment of a trilogy but when you have no idea that there was such a trilogy it is hard to go back and start again.
My workouts have become a daily routine that I start the mornings with. To help pass the time I watch an episode of Ramy, a new show on Hulu, and I have already finished the first season leaving me to question what I will watch tomorrow while I do pushups and arm curls. My home gym is slowly growing with resistance bands and pushup bars joining the dumb bell set. My arms and shoulders are noticeably more defined and my legs have a new springiness to them. I don’t know if I have lost any weight, making sure to weigh myself once a month to document changes.
Another house payment went out with all other bills paid. I think at this point I don’t have a payment due until June. With spare cash I started to pick up Modern Library books. These are the hard cover pocket size classics that were printed between 1919 and 1970. These are fairly common and really cheap for what they are. I did some research and found that there is a community of people who collect these. All together there are 498 books in the series with a few titles that are harder to find because of low sales. I come across these all the time and since I am developing the habit of reading an hour or two before bed what better hobby could a man find?
There are ten days left and I still have to finish reading Sand by Hugh Howey, Nicotine by Will Self, Eat Memory, and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. I doubt I will have an issue with this and I haven’t decided if the last day of the month is a shut off day or if I continue reading things into the next month. A few dozen Louie L’amour novels are waiting for me and I don’t want to disappoint them.


Twelve days, Twelve books

We are twelve days into the new year and so far, so good. I sent out another check to the mortgage company which means I’ve paid $1200 so far this year and I don’t have a payment due until May. I finally finished reading Quicksand by Henning Mankell and have to say that I really enjoyed it. I felt a bit of quilt having put it down earlier. This was the last book the man decided to write after finding out he had a form of cancer that was usually fatal. Sure enough, it was the last book he ever wrote. I own most of his other work but have yet to read any of it. I watched the Kurt Wallander BBC series and have to admit it was pretty good. Rarely am I ever disappointed by the BBC, they tend to think about quality over profitability. Besides the books I have yet to finish I also took the opportunity to go back and read any of the comic books that I have missed out on over the past twenty years. I have to say it all goes back to The Watchmen. Wolverine, Deadpool, and a few independent titles have been breezing through my hands. The quality of the art and stories haven’t changed much. In an industry that has been struggling for over a decade now I am not surprised at some of the leaps they have taken with different characters. They talk about jumping the shark for television, well, comics have been jumping sharks among a few other things over the years.
The stack of books has been thinning out and the Goodreads list is down to five last time I checked. I don’t know if I will get to every book in the stack although there are a few I could save for when their author’s month arrives. Jim Harrison, Thomas McGuane, and Will Self all have their time coming and Will has been making things difficult with his last epic novel Phone. I’m finally have way through and with a run time of 21 hours in audio book and over 700 pages in print it is not an easy read. This doesn’t include the lack of paragraphs, jumping around from scene to scene, and the use of UK English to add to the confusion. It is a chore and yet there is something to be said about the depth of which Self dives into with his characters. The Butcher, for all of his gory antics, turns out to be just another person from a shitty upbringing that you find yourself rooting for in a way. Yes, he ahs done horrible things, but haven’t we all?
Today was the first day I can say I didn’t get a work out in. There has been some cardio and weight lifting, easing back into things because past experience has shown me how over doing it can go wrong. You can’t lose weight or get into shape if you can’t work out. For the moment P90x is sitting on the shelf, where it belongs. Not having the time or ability to properly do the program will just frustrate me and won’t help at all. I am still waiting until the end of the month to weigh in and my shirts fit better than they have. During the past two weeks I have used an app for intermediate fasting and already I can tell there is a difference in the size of my stomach and how much I can eat. This diet routine is not the cure all for what I’m seeking but it does help.
My study now has the addition of a reading chair for those nights I come home from work and need an hour or two to wind down. That has been the biggest change I have noticed so far this year, sitting down to read before bed is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Turn the radio on for the local jazz channel and enjoy a story here and there. I don’t know of too many people that look back on there lives and say “I wish I would have watched more movies” but I have met a few that mentioned they wished they would have read more books. So far this year I am at a book a day and while I know it won’t last it is a good start to the new year.


Intermediate fasting

I am currently at the first hour of a 16 hour fast. I have an app for this that helps me keep track of when my body is burning sugar and when it is eating fat. I once had a job that took care of this for me, keeping me so busy that I would forget to eat for 8-12 hours at a time. These days I factor in my 6-8 hours of broken sleep and a late breakfast to cover the time. I haven’t had any problems yet and even squeezed in a 20 hour fast because, well, I was busy at work. Four days into the year and I already have my 2-3 workouts in for the week. Even with the holiday I have stuck to my 1-2 drinks per week. My calorie count is down at the moment with the fasting keeping me from snacking on the off hours.
Yesterday I was supposed to have my new dumbbells arrive only to have a message from Amazon that UPS “delayed” my package. I don’t know what exactly this means but I wasn’t too happen to see that it was delivered to my city this morning at 2:30am and wasn’t delivered today when it is already two days late. New years resolutions are already hard enough, it doesn’t help when somebody else sabotages what you are already going to sabotage yourself.
Two books I finished so far include: Braided Creek by Jim Harrison and In Search of Reagan’s Brain, a Doonesbury annual from 1980-81. Neither of them were a “deep” read, one being poetry and the other a collection of newspaper comic strips. I’m still reading anything I can get my hands on when I have the time, and so far, 2 books in four days isn’t bad. I have been books on order that I received a discount on from Ebay. These were the missing Will Self books that I don’t have in my library and while I should be upset that I spent the money instead of putting it towards my mortgage it should be pointed out that Will Self is not found on the shelves of book stores in the states. Eventually I will find some crude thing he said about this great country of ours. Perhaps he made fun of our “Freedom Fries” or wrote a short story about Trump’s small mushroom shaped penis, who knows. Either way I look forward to these books and march should be a self-indulgent time.
I received a letter in the mail from my mortgage company informing me that I was more than 90 paid up in advance. I didn’t know that paying your bills was a problem. Perhaps my extra money made them want to spend it on postage thanking me for being so punctual on my payments. Or maybe they noticed that I could end up paying off the principle early, eliminating what is owed in interest and therefore losing the company some money over the long haul. I’m thinking of framing this beautiful piece of office literature as a reminder that I annoyed someone enough by paying my bills ahead of time that they felt they had to send a message that I was tampering with their books. And here I thought they only wrote you when you were 90 days behind, not when you were ahead.


Unfinished books

Tomorrow starts the reading challenge for 2020, the first month is the unfinished books I have been neglecting throughout the year. The list includes four titles by Jim Harrison, one epic novel by Will Self, Thomas McGuane’s first novel, Henning Mankell’s last book, plus a few about pipes and food. There are also two titles in my Hoopla Audiobook files that I need to finish.
Most of these books I am about half way through and the only time I really have to read these days is after work before bed. Once in a while, who am I kidding, every night my daughter helps by waking up at 3am and not falling back asleep until 5am. I haven’t figured out what I will do with the books when I am finished with them. Time will tell.


Project 2020 is a go!

Every year there are things that I set out to do and most of them are left as distant memories sitting in a smoldering pile of crap. These are goals I set for myself and are quickly forgotten for various reasons. The excuse of “Life” is often used, and going along with life has only gotten me so far. After turning forty and running out of excuses I have decided that it is time to “Man Up” and make these changes that I keep telling myself that I need to do. The new year is as good of a time as any to try something new and see what sticks and what doesn’t.
This project has three different aspects to it; reading, fitness, and finance. Why did I pick these three? They are the three things that have irritated me the most about my life. I don’t read as much as I would like, instead always choosing to watch some shitty show on Netflix and wasting my time that could be spent doing something more productive. Skipping to finance, it bugs the crap out of me how much of my monthly payment on my house is eaten up by interest. Instead of complaining I think it is a better idea to do something about it and have some joy in knowing the mortgage company won’t make as much as they were hoping. Finally fitness, my dad had a second heart attack this year and while I am young I have noticed that I’m no longer in the kind of shape I was in at 30. Lifting weights and running were part of my daily routine and since I moved into my wife’s house there isn’t any room for exercise equipment. Walking as become my routine, towing my daughter behind me in a wagon, but that hasn’t kept the pounds off and reaching an ungodly 225 pounds. I haven’t weighed that since I was married in 2003 and back then I bought P90X shredding down to an athletic 185. Even when I was at my most muscular state, I only peaked at 205 for a frame of 5 foot 9 inches. Either way, I need to lose about 40 pounds.
Reading challenge is as follows, each month there will be an author that I will read. At the end of the month I will reveal the books I read, what I thought, and what I recommend. The list of authors is as follows:
Jan- read unfinished books and clean out Goodreads list.
Feb- louis L’amour
March- Will Self
April- Craig Johnson
May- Joe R Lansdale
June- Thomas McGuane
July- Jim Harrison
Aug- Larry McMurtry
Sept- E. L. Doctorow
Oct- Mark Twain
Nov- Philip Roth
Dec- Michael Perry
Read along if you like, my current reads will be logged in on Goodreads under Matthew Gilman.
Workout Goals include:
-lose 40 pounds by June 2020
-Eat less carbs. Limit myself to 1-2 drinks per week.
-Eat oatmeal every morning.
-Drink 2 glasses of whole milk after every workout.
While I do have a schedule of things I would like to do I have decided that I need to ease into things and set the bar low at first. Free weight workouts will get me started in the winter months while I also play around with diet. I want to see what kind of changes I can get from playing around with carnivore diets, paleo, vegan, and intermediate fasting. I’m not that interested in bulking up since my joints might be able to handle the weight they once did over a decade ago. While I experiment with these diets I also want to find recipes in cookbooks I have collected over the years and not be stuck with the same boring crap you would see an athlete or bodybuilder eating.
Finance Goals:
Obviously if you want to pay down a mortgage you start by making payment towards the principle. I sat down and made a budget for the year that doesn’t give me much wiggle room. If I keep myself busy with the two other goals, I should be able to stash away $1100 a month towards my mortgage totaling $13,200 for the year. It’s a good chunk of cash and I’m hoping I will see some results when it comes to the principle. Any other money that comes my way will also be thrown at that monstrosity. We will see what the end result is.
So, that’s it, my project 2020 for the coming year. You can also find videos on YouTube at Typing Piper and follow along there with updates.


Will By Will Self

I was able to find a uncorrected proof of Will on Ebay while searching for other books by Will Self. At the time I was disappointed to see some unflattering reviews, but considering that some of them admitted to not finishing the damn thing or complaining about things like the English spelling and Vernacular of the dialogue I had to give a go.
considering the subject matter and where Mr. Self is currently in his life I was not surprised that he referred to himself in the third person. As a man in my 40s now I have to say I am not the same person I was back in my 20s. The stories at appear to jump back and forth connecting here and there and ultimately coming back to the beginning. There are catch phrases that are repeated “Againanagain” being one and “Waste not want not.” there are several of these and a few appear to be song lyrics appropriate for the time. there is an odd mix of writing in Italics but I took it as pointing out the importance of the phrase and it of course came up in the story at some time later tying the book together in these fine threads.
I’m not an addict and have never gone to AA or tried hard drug ever in my life, but I do know people who have gone that path and most of them are no longer with us. from what I saw and the things I know that happened I can say that regardless of this book taking place over the pond and in India, for a short period of time, the life of an addict is the same and I for one am glad that Mr. Self was able to pull himself out of it. I doubt this book will ever be turned into a movie or a Netflix series and it doesn’t need to. The format of the novel was the perfect format to tell it and there is should remain.