Why I Committed Suicide

"A turbo-charged, deliciously manic potrait of contemporary American life." Now available in paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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Location: Salem, Oregon

I am a smart and fairly active individual. I am reasonably handsome but that's not really good for anything. I am currently working on writing and publishing my second book. It's more fun to play outside though. I am fairly new to the Oregon area but I am exploring as much as I can with whoever will go. It's been so nice to meet intelligent people in Oregon and it has fueled my desire to meet more people instead of just hiding away in a damp cave and typing up new blogs.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Struggling to leap from being a writer to an author in early 2004

I eagerly mailed out almost a hundred query letters to publishing houses, agents, publicists etc. I went to the libraries and bookstores searching for addresses. I did my homework and wrote to all the right people in all the right places. All I wanted was a little help bringing "Why I Committed Suicide" to life. No pun intended.I thought that with my bitchin' proposal and my bitchin' 3rd rough draft in hand I could probably catch the attention of some kindred artistic spirit trapped in their own personal publishing hell. If I inspired them in their downward corporate spiral, they might mentor me, they might take me under their wing and edit my book into something magical. Championed by an editor on the 'inside', my vision would become a book. And right there on the first page I would "...dedicate this book to my crackerjack editor, _____ _____, who with patience, guidance and amazing insight made this book possible. You are the most kind and thoughtful person I have ever worked with."

So I waited and waited and called and e-mailed and worked and waited and prayed and waited and finally a few responses started to trickle in... ... ...

Now, slightly older and more jaded, I fully understand the overwhelming volume of content and pressure a million dreamers like me inject into the publishing industry every day. It's pretty hard to get someone to even read your book these days, unless you can summarize your vision in 25 words and show that another publishing company already did something similar, they will not take the risk. (See this article) They can not even get the risk authorized. I'll rephrase that. People who work in the publishing industry are too (read this) to read books by people that have not been published before. I understand, that's life. We all grow through our rejections and I thought it would be neat to post some them on my website. That way if you are an aspiring writer perhaps you can live vicariously and save yourself the trouble of mailing your hopes and dreams in a plain manila envelope to a complete stranger looking for another "Chicken Soup for 'duh' Soul" book. Just print out my letter and pretend it is your own. That way you can save yourself the postage! It's eco friendly-tastic! Sarcasm aside, the letters I am posting are just the few people and companies that bothered to use the self-addressed-stamped-envelope I included with my letters. There are many, many more that probably just tossed my letter in the company recycle bin. This person is doing it one publisher at a time, I like that confidence! (click)

So is self publishing the answer? Can it help your career? WIll you ever be happy?

I am not here to sell you anything. Self publishing seems to have worked out well for me and a lot of other authors I talk to. I wrote a book, I published a book and it's even sold a few copies. Here's a good article that can give you the skinny on self publishing better than I can.

But self publishing isn't easier. You still have to write your damn book and because it's an independent novel you sure as hell better polish that turd and make it better than any turd already out there collecting dust in the turdmall. Which means believing in what you're doing as a writer and shoving aside the nagging self doubt and putting in the long hours and lonely nights and writing endless drafts and pestering friends to be editors and trying to do all the painful legwork. And you have to do it. At least that's what the wrinkly old man told me in his china shop of mystery. If you are really lucky like me you might gain a supportive network of intelligent people from all walks of life who enjoy reading your wild nonfiction adventures and even put up with your silly erratic posting.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

I did a radio interview this past weekend...

I did a radio interview this past weekend...
Hey everyone, I did a radio interview this past weekend for a show called
“A Story To Tell” on the Global Talk Radio network.

Here’s the link http://www.globaltalkradio.com/shows/astorytotell/

It’s supposed to air next Monday (5/30) but it will also be archived on their site so you can check it out anytime after that. If it totally sucked I’ll take down this blog and you will never find it but I think it went pretty well. Here are the questions and my responses as I remember them….

Talking points:

What inspired you to write the novel Why I Committed Suicide?
I realized a few years ago that there was this huge chapter in my life I never openly discuss with anyone. Only a few people knew about it at all. On the surface I seem like a run of the mill guy with a family and a normal job but less than 10 years ago I was a junky living hand to mouth getting tossed in and out of jail. Things would come up in casual conversation here and there that made me realize most people have no clue what it’s like to descend into that kind of despair.

Like what would come up?
Well, it’s really easy to make a generalization and say something like “we should lock all drug abusers away forever” or “addicts should just know better and stop using” but it’s not like that. Nobody starts using hard drugs right away and nobody thinks that their causal habit might be permanent and control their whole life one day. Everyone thinks they are smarter or better or have a plan to keep them from getting hooked I wanted my book to show how it was a series of innocent decisions and experiences that added up into me being tossed in jail. But at the same time it’s hard to present that information without being preachy or full of contempt. So I thought it might work to write about myself and talk about what I was going through when some critical decisions came up.

What’s with the title, you obviously didn’t commit suicide, did you attempt it?
Actually yes, at the lowest point in my life, my rock bottom, I made a really rash decision to try and hang myself in a jail cell. It is only through the grace of God that I am here to tell about it. It didn’t work but it almost did…

What happened?
Well I went as far as putting the belt around my neck and attaching it to the bunk where I could hang myself. I was saying a final quick prayer of forgiveness for what I was about to do when I heard a commotion in the dayroom. I went to check it out and saw the guards carrying out a guy’s body from the cell next to mine. The guy had just hung himself while I was working up the nerve. The revelation of what happened it me hard and really through me for a loop. I’m still not sure I completely understand it but the book explains it more detail.

So how was it in Jail?
Jail is a terrible, terrible thing. I mean I know it’ supposed to be a bad place or everyone would want to go, but the depravity goes way beyond that. Jail doesn’t teach you to be a better person, it teaches you to be worse than the guys in there with you in order to protect yourself. The corruption of the system on even the smallest level is so out of control that I doubt there is a way to make it work. I saw more quantities of drugs and money changing hands in jail than I ever saw out on the street. The first time I ever saw crack was while I was in jail. People like to talk about prisoners having it so easy and watching television all day and it’s nothing like that. It’s weird but I owe a lot to former governor Ann Richards. Because she became Governor as a recovering alcoholic she made sure to get rehabilitation centers set up to try and teach people a better way to live and respect themselves and the community instead of just building more jails. She made a lot of political enemies doing that but she understood that it was the right thing to do, jails are big business and have stockholders now that need a return on their investment. It costs more to put a person through a rehabilitation center but it’s so worth it to society, to yourself in the long run. Even if someone leaves and gets arrested again they at least have the knowledge and tools to make their lives different down the road. You can’t put a price on that. It’s sad to know that her successor (our current President) reversed the whole process and cut funding to those programs. Imagine how many people we could save from being raped or killed if we took the time to teach someone who is slipping into the system. Spending the time and money now might keep your daughter safer 10 years from now, it’s a shame to look at things so short term but that seems to be the trend.

You mentioned that you use a lot of drugs in this book, what age group is it appropriate for?
The book was written in the first person in what almost feels like a diary format in order to specifically appeal to a younger audience, maybe ages 16-25. Maybe even younger. Whether people like it or not, young people today are exposed to things more quickly in our society and drugs, sex and suicide are things that every teenager thinks about. Instead of making it a political platform I think it’s best to just be honest about these topics, there is already enough mis-information out there. Sure, drugs are bad but does anyone talk about why they are bad? Kids are smart, they want to know the seedy details or they will experiment and look for themselves. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through.

How has the public reaction been to your novel?

Honestly it’s been mixture of extremes. I get some e-mails from people that tell me how it’s changed their life, that they had no idea things like this were going on just underneath the surface of our culture. Some kids who are currently using like to e-mail me while they are reading the first half of the book, I think maybe they think I’m some sort of drug using Hunter S. Thompson kind of character that will give them a thumbs up if they tell me about all the pot they are smoking and that kind of thing, but then when they finish the book and read about the bad times I usually don’t hear from them anymore. I’ve had a weird reaction from some parents, almost a violent lashing out from parents who thin my book is evil and inappropriate for kids and that I’m a bad person but it’s usually a reaction to their kid bringing home the book and they are outraged to see the world ‘Suicide’ on the cover. These are the kids who want their questions answered the most honestly and the people who should be giving them the answers would rather be outraged at me. Some people write to tell me I need to find God, which I think is ironic because parts of the book actually talk about how I found my way back to God. And then there are the regular people who sit down and read the book and completely understand the message and they absolutely love it.

Is everything in this book true?
Yes, it’s a memoir – non-fiction. The events are as I remember them happening but some timelines were rearranged to fit the story.

Where can we get this book?
The easiest way is to order it off of Amazon. There are several links to places to buy it online which you can find through my website: www.whyicommittedsuicide.com. Barnes and Noble has also been great about keeping it in stock or ordering it for people who ask them for it at the counter.

Are you writing another book right now?
Actually yes, I’m slowly writing the sequel to this book. It doesn’t have a title yet but it’s about my final days in jail and then my transition to rehab and back out into the regular world. It’s about trying to re-establish relationships and the struggle to overcome the label of criminal to try and live a normal honest life. I know that sounds sort of bland but it has more fire and passion than Why I Committed Suicide and I think it ends up being more upbeat and well put together. For people that like this book they are going to love the next one even more. I learned a lot writing this first book so I expect the next one to go a lot more smoothly.