I’m resolved to get a chapter a day recorded, and edited, on Given the Circumstances: The Audiobook over the next three weeks. So that, when I head to Berlin on June 6th, this second audiobook will be In Review at Authorsrepublic.com, and therefore live when I get back.
Multiple reasonings. A, I really don’t want to go on vacation with anything left “unfinished.” B, I need to try and get the Money Train rolling on audiobooks, and ALTB is just too damn short lengthwise to get past that $9.95 price point. C, if I’m going to get a job-job when I come back from said vacation, I’m going to need to relearn how to adhere to a schedule not dictated by moi, and easily altered by moi at will.
It’s funny. Brandon Witt wrote a blog post this morning that’s exactly what I’ve been saying all along – it’s fuckin’ impossible to make a living at this job. And he’s the guy who says:
I manage to stay out of 99% of the drama that wracks or community. (And I’m an irritable SOB at heart, so keeping my mouth shut and temper in check is a FULL time job, let me tell you.) I’m become a social media guru. At least more than I ever dreamed or wanted to be. I spend hours and tons of money on promotions, ads, blog tours, graphics. I try to be as transparent as I can so that readers get to know the real me, with my opinionated side diluted…I’ve been on panels and radio shows where I’ve been introduced as a veteran writer. I’ve seen myself referred to in print as an established novelist. I’ve had several other authors comment about how they hope to be as successful as me. And each time, I literally look around wandering who the fuck they’re talking about.
So here’s a guy who, unlike me, plays nice with the other children, and markets his heart out, and yet who also could not “foresee having seven novels and other smaller works published and still not making it close to the poverty line.”
Having given up on making a living at writing alone, and therefore “not writing” lately, and until who knows when, has been nice. Without some definitive target that has to be researched, it’s given my mind the freedom to wander.
And somehow it’s wandered into the Gilded Age, which, factoring in the power of the robber barons to squash labor and dissent, really didn’t end until the Crash of 1929. I originally picked up David M. Kennedy’s Over Here a year ago or more, after reading John Barry’s The Great Influenza, about the Spanish Flu pandemic. Barry’s book inspired some notion about writing a detective story as “Derek Vance,” set in 1918 during the flu pandemic. Discovering the totalitarian climate of America during WWI was a shock to me, and Barry’s book cited Over Here as the best reference on “Homeland Security” during WWI.
Then of course economic realities, or at least as I saw them, caught up to me; you can’t write that, you’ll have to start a new pen name, whole new marketing thingie yadaya, there’s no money in it, etc. And so I put Over Here away unread.
For some reason, an equally long time ago, I’d ordered the first volume of John Dos Passos’ classic USA Trilogy, “slice of life” novels set in America between roughly 1910-1930. It also languished on my shelf as a book to read “someday.” Somehow it survived the repeated culls of the To Read shelf, when you have to make room for more To Read books by scrapping the I’m Really Never Gonna Read That books.
Then, one night a few weeks ago, giving it a shot, I was immediately hooked. I wasn’t finished before I ordered the next two books in the trilogy, and went back to my To Read shelf and grabbed Over Here while I waited. After that, I also read Triangle, about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, which I’d had on the shelf because “Brad” might need it for another Werewolves book at some time.
Then it was on to American Colossus, US history from 1986-1900, the age of the rise of Carnegie, Rockefeller, JP Morgan… Then to Only Yesterday, a history of the 1920s written in 1931, because that much had changed in ten years to justify a history of it (and written with a witty, very leftie style that’s lots of fun to read)…
I wondered what my subconscious was doing. This time period has nothing to do with anything I might even write anytime at all, never mind soon. Why was this whole time so…
Then it came to me. Oh Duh, because you’re totally obsessed with boom and bust right now. I read with envy about the easy fortunes to be made in the Gilded Age, if a man knew when to invest in (and get out of) railroad stocks or cattle ventures. Stories about men who failed at this and that and then, suddenly, were in the right place at the right time and BOOM, there it was, the golden opportunity, at least until it wasn’t anymore, and if you had any sense, you’d have already moved on to the next thing, because the last man standing on the last thing was left holding the bag.
I recently moved some of my Bitcoin into Ethereum, another cryptocurrency, which nearly made me cry, when it went from $11 (where I bought it) to $7. Like anyone else, I thought, shit, should I sell out now before I lose it all? Then I realized, that, like the stock market, or publishing a novel, it’s all a fucking slot machine – you just never know when or what will hit. So I left it.
Then it started climbing. Up, up and up, as this new thing came along, DAO – the easiest way to explain that (as far as I can tell) is that it’s a “crowdsourced venture capitalist fund,” with all the returns a VC would receive, rather than just the fuzzygoodfeel you get from Kickstarters and whatnot. And to buy shares in it (which you’ll soon be able to resell), you had to spend Ethereum, and now ETH is at $13.30 as of this a.m., its fortunes rising with the theoretical possibilities of DAO.
So yeah, I converted more BTC into ETH and bought DAO. Because…well, shit, basically because I read American Colossus, and thought, damn, that was the end of the line for ordinary people to get rich, wasn’t it, once all the cattle were branded and enclosed, once the free land (okay “free” after stolen from Indians) was gobbled up, after the last gold strike was hit… And this felt like maybe it could be an opportunity.
Tech stocks don’t count as opportunities anymore; the stock market’s a rigged table. I read Dan Lyons’ Disrupted and he’s got it nailed: the new “hot” tech companies don’t even exist to create…anything. They exist to look “hot” long enough to go to IPO, the VCs and Wall Street and the founders cash out, and then the value and even the whole company can vaporize, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Money Market all fucked over.
It’s not a lot of money I’ve got in there. My $1900 investment in Bitcoin grew to $2500 or so, and after pulling out $500 in cash just to satisfy my neurosis about “losing it all,” I’ve moved half that into ETH/DAO.
And shit, even if I lose it, it’s something, you know, to feel like you’re in on that kind of thing, a strange new frontier in a world where all the frontiers were closed a long time ago. It very weirdly puts me in touch with the people who lived 150 years ago, makes their time feel more real, the sense of what it was like, the terror but the exhilaration, of living in a world where the gilded gates weren’t all closed yet…