The Death of Kyle B. Stiff!

By Kyle B. Stiff

Artists and writers are usually much less interesting than the stuff they produce. Little Wodi journeying through the wasteland and trying to find an answer to the riddle of the demonic suppression of his species (also known as Demonworld) – now that’s interesting. Or Cromulus from Heavy Metal Thunder fighting against an alien bureaucracy that’s so hungry it had to cross thousands of light-years just to eat his species while Cromulus himself doesn’t even know who he is or why the human species has lost its will to live – that’s interesting, too! Heck, I almost never bother to write about myself on this blog. In a best-case scenario, I’d focus on posting about weird connections between pop culture movies and esoteric occult systems, but today I’m going to deviate and write something about myself. Not because I’m terribly interesting, but because I’m going through some ego-shattering stuff that might help a few others on their own journey.

Virgil Finlay

Here’s the short version: I sell my books on Amazon, I was doing good for a while, but sales have recently plummeted. The bottom has fallen out on the whole venture. Hope perched on my shoulder while I looked at my sales, and I spent most of my time writing and looking forward to a time when my meager income would become a stable fountain that could sustain a healthy, wholesome, productive lifestyle. I never asked for much; I’m a work-oriented kind of guy who finds more happiness in following through with projects rather than buying flashy things. Any time I worked a “real job” in the past, I always felt like I was wasting my time. Having my energy drained by masters without vision and rubbing elbows with coworkers lost in drama never seemed all that mature and productive despite any propaganda that said otherwise. I always resented it… always.

Vincent Van Gogh, Papaveri e farfalle (1890)

I spent years writing, and it’s true that you need to spend about ten thousand hours (or ten years) if you want to come close to mastering any craft. Only in the past few years have I produced anything that would be worth a stranger’s time, much less their money. Plus it’s fun to see the ego diminish as competency increases; I’ve thrown away enough bullshit literary flourishes and pretentious use of language to the point that I don’t have to worry about being completely embarrassed when I look at my own writing. But then again, that’s still just ego talking… because now I’ve got to get a real job, and since I don’t want to be unhappy while doing it, that means I’ve really got to set some ego aside when I put on that necktie-noose.

By Tim Flach

By Tim Flach

See, for years I’ve gambled everything on storytelling. I single-mindedly devoted myself to that and let everything else slide. Part-time jobs, poverty, milking unemployment, borrowing, begging, sometimes stealing – and those were the good times! Now that my Amazon sales look like ET when he was dying on the bathroom floor, I have to wonder if maybe I’ve built up a humongous pile of bullshit in my head and sold it to my ego in lieu of living a real life. When you think of those phony artists that dress the part and hang out in bars and spin a big yarn about the bullshit they’re into, don’t we naturally react with disgust once we realize it’s all a farce? Of course we do, but then again, it’s easy to see the bullshit when someone else is spouting it. But what if I’m the one spouting it to myself? What if it’s a fact that not every schmuck who’s decent at storytelling gets to do what he wants to do for forty or fifty hours a week because the world simply can’t sustain that fantasy, and he just ends up using people and draining them because he can’t sustain himself? What if he ends up on his death bed and as his heart finally sputters and chokes on a wad of crusty scabs he breathes his last and the veil is lifted and he sees reality – true reality, not the illusion of endlessly shifting forms – and all he sees is a path paved with regret and the idiotic things he did to other people because he thought that it was all going to pay off once he inevitably “made it”?

Fuck me runnin’! That sounds awful! Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, and now… me!

Transi de René de Chalon in Bar-le-Duc France

Then again, let me rein it in a little bit. I’m not trying to be a huge drama queen. I’m not giving up on writing. I couldn’t even if I tried! But I’m going to have to scale it back. Heck, most “real” writers who get paid so much that they have to open multiple bank accounts in order to hold all the money that’s thrown at them can’t be asked to crank out more than one book every few years… and how could they? Can you imagine juggling a schedule of vacations, meetings with architects building your mansions, parties with television and movie producers, AND writing a book on top of that? I’ve already got a leg up on those guys; despite being racked by the guilt of not being able to pay my way through existence, I can knock out several books a year, no problem. The only difference is that now I’m going to have to devote most of my time and energy to a job; someone else’s vision, rather than Demonworld, will have to take precedence. Unlike a younger, dumber Kyle B. Stiff, I’m going to devote energy toward finding a way to enjoy it rather than resent it. I probably won’t be able to write during the week because, let’s face it, I’m physically weak and just can’t handle it… but I can still devote a decent chunk of the weekend toward receiving transmissions from the Grand Architect Omni-Mind Entertainer (who gives artists their visions) and chronicling the further adventures of li’l Wodi, Cromulus, and those cute bunnies in my short stories.

William John Hennessy 1879 The Pride of Dijon

Let’s look at this transformation in a positive light, you guys! I’m going to set aside my ego and quite possibly become a real human boy! Kyle B. Stiff is dead! The new aeon of Kyle B. Stiff has begun! There are no longer any maps or guideposts to lead the way. Those were only a fantasy, the hallucination of order where no order was even possible. Strange horizons will be our only goal, and the person I’ll meet on the mountaintop will be a mysterious freak I have never met before, dancing out of rhythm and wearing a mask in the shape of my own face…

Zdzislaw Beksinski 3

 

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11 responses to “The Death of Kyle B. Stiff!

  1. Great post Kyle, I too wrestle with this same dilemma and endeavour to find a way to sustain my writing financially (i.e. through part-time work for someone else’s dream), knowing that this isn’t likely to come from writing itself and knowing that this will also reduce my writing output… But surely writing and sharing your works is its own reward? A life well-lived?

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    • You’re right Andrew, it is good just to write and share the work and give people something nice to contemplate, but of course there’s always the dark side of that stuff in that it’s hard not to dwell on systems of reward and punishment. It’s always strange to see borderline sociopaths go to college and get their MBAs and have zero understanding of anything beyond the surface details of things – and then they pull down huge salaries, have nice houses, zero guilt, etc. Of course they always surround themselves with gaudy possessions, soulless friends, and frivolous mates, so I’m not saying I want that life. But it is a strange feeling to harness all of your energy into one endeavor, to learn enough about it to the extent that it becomes a joy to do, and then to realize you’re thirty-four years old and living in abject poverty and have a terrible resume held together with duct tape and lies! It really inspires a certain amount of terror!

      I’m not bitter, but I’m trying to be a little smarter about this whole process!

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  2. Have you tried offering the first Demon World book free on Amazon for a limited time to drive up sales on the sequels? The problem appears to be that you lack a sufficient following. It certainly isn’t that you lack skill as a writer. I’m not even sure where to classify these books. Are they fantasy? Sci-Fi? Horror? Post Apocalyptic? Don’t get me wrong, I love the books, but they are genre benders. Books that are difficult to classify don’t fit well into Amazons sorting system any better than they do in traditional bookstores. Your blog is also excellent.

    I noticed that you’ve updated the cover for Demon World and enhanced the Amazon sales page, and that is a good thing, but to be honest, I totally understand why publishers don’t give writers a say in what the cover will look like. 🙂 Good luck, and don’t you dare stop writing.

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    • Yeah man, the whole business of making covers is rough! I have an insane plan on how to make a different type of cover for the second Heavy Metal Thunder book; if, by some miracle, it works out and doesn’t look completely awful, then I might just be able to update the Demonworld covers (again) and slap some juice back into the series. The whole plan could backfire. Who knows?! It’s one of those problems where I wish I had a briefcase full of money that I could just throw around until the problem goes away (otherwise known as “hiring awesome professional artists”). With book covers there’s an interesting intersection between illustration and graphic arts, but if you’re poor as balls and weren’t born with the gift of visuals, then the problem goes from “interesting” to “a disaster” all too quickly…

      As for getting sales up, I got a message just the other day from a friend who might have a solution. Unfortunately it’s complicated and I can’t even try it out until October, but maybe by then I’ll have some decent viewer-friendly covers to show off. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. And thanks so much for being there since the beginning, sir!

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  3. Say it ain’t so… I find your writing to be significantly better than mine and if you can’t make it, well, what hope does a shit peddler like me have. (SIGH) Dude, you’re talented. Granted I haven’t read any of your books but the stuff you put on WordPress is tits, and I never say that lightly. Shit, today was the first time I visited the sight in weeks and the first thing I did was checkout your sight. Please, find a gig that pays you to write- freelance stuff, trade mags, what-fucking-ever, but don’t stop writing. I’d like see some scripts- screenplays, teleplays, spec stuff. You’re good, its the rest of the world that sucks. Please keep on rocking in the free world and don’t stop doing what you should be doing… WRITING!

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    • Hey White Hippo, thanks for the kind words! Maybe I came off as a little histrionic… “The world won’t pay me for my writing, therefore I will quit forever and punish the world!”… but really, I’m trying to be a big fat stinking adult and find some kind of balance in all of this. I’ve never been a very “balanced” kind of guy. I tend to focus on one thing at a time, or live in my head, and let everything else fall apart. Also I’m physically sort of weak (or at least “sensitive”), so when I would give past jobs my energy, I was just empty by the time I got home – and you can’t write when you’re empty. You can only eat and watch TV, which is pathetic. So I’m going to try to work, ration out my energy, keep my life and all its details “clean” and “orderly”, and try to find time to write at a normal human pace (as opposed to writing all day, pulling all-nighter’s, etc).

      This may or may not work at all. Hopefully this whole process will bring me closer to becoming a fully-actualized human who fully understands that “the kingdom of heaven is within” rather than a huge, whining baby praying for money and blowjobs and fame and making a gross spectacle of himself. We’ve all been there, amirite?!

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  4. I totally understand the cover situation. Artists are usually expensive if they are any good. I’d suggest looking up sandedfaceless on deviantart.com since they list their prices and they seem reasonable (ei: around $500.00) Here is an example of a cover they recently did for another indie author. http://www.deviantart.com/art/Book-Cover-The-Crimson-Vault-393122700. I know some artists are asking for 10 times as much to do a cover. If your totally strapped, put up a concept and ask your fans to give it a whorl. At the very least you may end up with an amazing concept.

    That artist also created this cover and the author has sold over 16,000 copies since early June. http://sandedfaceless.deviantart.com/art/Book-Cover-House-of-Blades-377764069

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  5. Hey Kyle, don’t let it get you down. I originally bought Demonworld not for its cover art, but because I’m a huge fan of sci fi and post apocalyptic fiction. It was a gamble considering you were the first Indie author whose work I ever purchased on Amazon. One gamble I do not regret. I have gone on to purchase the entire series and Heavy Metal Thunder as well, and even gifted a few copies of the books to my relatives that I thought would enjoy it, most of whom did. However, that being said I do understand your dilemma. I just wanted to let you know that I consider you an immensely imaginative and gifted writer who can hold his own with the legends of the genre any day. I would go as far as to say that Demonworld is in my all time top five favorite stories/series, and I look forward to reading about how Wodi’s adventures turn out. And I would like to let you know that there are some fans of the series out there that are doing their best to promote the series. I know that word of mouth is the best advertisement but it sometimes travels slow. Best of luck!

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    • Damn JN, that’s one of the kindest, sweetest, and most blastin’ of pronouncements that anyone’s ever uttered on my behalf. After reading this, then watching the trailers for the original 300 and then Man of Steel back-to-back, I don’t think anything can stop me from bringing the entirety of Demonworld into reality. I’m humbled to know that you’re spreading the word about Demonworld. These are tough times, but if this is as tough as it gets, how can I possibly fail?!

      We’ll conquer the arid wasteland and leave a trail of beautiful flowers in our wake! Surely nothing could be more terrifying to those who invented the forty-hour work week!

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