I’m Whiskey Leavins. And I’m a writer. No shit.
I started posting short stories and a few smart-ass movie reviews and such to my original blog, The Devil’s Own Piss some six-plus years ago – starting with the eponymous story featuring the devil, Lucifestus. Since then, I’ve thought of myself as a kinda, sorta, poser writer. I’d get an idea, try to find time to crank it out. All short, short, flash type stories. Let it sit a bit, then polish it up, at least a little bit, and post it. As a blog post, each story would get a few likes. Those obligated by familial, or friendship ties would read it. You know, a writer. Kinda. I always assumed, maybe imagined is a better word, that there would come a day where I would re-structure my life in order to take the writing seriously. Have a real go.
Thanks to the Rona and its accompanying isolation-mandated life reevaluation, it would appear that now is the time to fish or cut bait, shit or get off the pot, taste great or be less filling. I am of an age where I sustain deep tissue napping injuries; I spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about bowel regularity; inescapably, I’m an old dude. When was I thinking this nebulous writing thing was going to happen? Was I gonna wait until I found myself standing in line at CVS, drooling, forgetting why I’m there and staring blankly at the package of Depends under my arm? The Rona Oracle has illuminated the path. Shut down the old blog. Publish The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories as a collection. Then start writing actual books and other shit that people can buy. It’s now or never motherfucker.
In addition to the Rona effect, I also must credit three other effects that have helped to kick-start this thinly veiled mid-life crisis sea change.
The Earth Rocker Effect
“If you’re gonna do it do it live on stage, or don’t do it at all.”
Earth Rocker, Clutch
Ever listen to Clutch? World’s greatest straight ahead rock band. Crunching stuff, each song built around a legendary guitar riff. But also, they have some badass, and crazy-ass lyrics. Like, “I’m a warmonger baby/I got blood in my eyes/And I’m looking at YOU!” Or “The Devil and Me/Had a falling out/Violation of contract/beyond a shadow of a doubt” See? Badass.
The Earth Rocker reference, though, is something I’ve believed since my misspent youth trying to be a rock star. But thanks to Neil Fallon and the boys, I now have a quote to sum it up. I toss it out every chance I get. If you create art, it should exist out in the world. If you write a song, you should damn well get up and perform it in front of a group of people, at least some of whom aren’t your family or friends. If you develop a burlesque routine, you should get up and do it in front of an audience. If you paint something, put it where people can see it. Whatever you create should be let loose on the world. Whether the world embraces it or not is a moot point.
I truly hope that people will like what I write and buy it. But more than anything, I just want my writing to exist. Out in the world. For real. I gotta do it live on stage or not do it at all.
The Walter Mosley Effect
“On hot sticky days in Southern Louisiana the fire ants swarm”
Okay, I have a Masterclass subscription. I haven’t used it that much. Besides writers and comedy folks, I thought I’d watch Penn and Teller, RuPaul, Scorsese and maybe one of the cooking ones. Get all edified. So far, I’ve watched a few things but not many. Mainly a time issue. Recently though, I saw Walter Mosley pop up. Now, I’m a Mosley fan, but more than that, the book I’m just starting on is a hardboiled detective noir parody. Perfect!
The very first episode was worth the whole year’s subscription. First, he pointed out the obvious. Fiction is making “something from nothing.” No duh. But then followed that by relating how his first sentence, at the age of 34 was the fire ant thing. At the time he wrote that line, Mosley says, he’d never been to Louisiana and he’d never seen a fire ant. Whoa. You mean I can just make shit up? I mean, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last six years. But I can just make shit up and be legit? Eye opener.
How much does, say, a Tom Clancy, or a Robert Ludlum have to know before they can even start to write a military/spy thriller? Like graduate level stuff, right? Christopher Moore, probably the gold standard of melding fiction and humor certainly had to know, well, a metric shit-ton of stuff about Shakespeare for example, before even starting to commence to begin to write Fool. I don’t know a D-level, high-school student’s PowerPoint Research Project amount of information about any of those things.
As it turns out that’s okay. I don’t have to write about any of them. But I do know about booze, dive bars, gambling of all kinds, a bit of mythology, some film and tv tropes, bible stories, and the razor’s edge balance between good and evil. I can write about those things! And I can hop on YouTube and Wikipedia from time to time, exercise some due diligence if I really want to nail down some facts. But if push comes to shove, I will, Make. Shit. Up. Thanks Mr. Mosley.
The Sweet Brown Effect
“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins
Okay, I’m going to go full Pinocchio and become a real boy. Or writer, whatever. What paths are available? I started looking into how to query publishers and agents. But I also started looking into self-publishing. Thank you, digital age for having removed the humiliating sobriquet Vanity Publishing. Although, to be fair, it is still a reasonable, close-to-the-bone description.
If I’m going to be a real writer, then obviously I need to find a publisher or an agent. Look, I think my writing is good. I think my characters and settings, in particular, are exceedingly clever. I’m a funny motherfucker. I’d like to think that if I shopped my book, The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories around to publishers and agents, I may well find some joy. But you know the stories. Even the greatest writers go through rejection, possibly for years, before finding a publisher. If I were in my twenties, or thirties at this juncture, I would persevere. I would suffer the slings and dues-paying arrows of rejection for my art and continue the Sisyphusian endeavor of pushing uphill until the right people acknowledged my clever motherfuckerness.
But man. I’m knocking on sixty. I ain’t got time for that – I can practically see dementia skipping and traipsing its way up my street, closer by the day. If my writing is going exist in the world, as per the Clutch Effect, I better just do it myself. Like right now. Vanity it is.
Wishing you all the best with the self-publishing route! It’s a give or take thing, I feel. The time you spend shopping your manuscript will be spent designing your book and marketing it in self-publishing, but it’s always a choice the writer has to make. Anyway, thanks for sharing!