Thursday, September 27, 2007

# WRITING

Guest Author: Nick Oliva, Author of ONLY MOMENTS

I began writing “Only Moments,” because I challenged myself to write a better book than John Grisham after reading most of his novels. Now, don't misunderstand. That I have a small percentage of his success would be wonderful. I just wanted to write a book that was a bit more meaningful and see if I could get it published. First I had to find good subject matter.

What started for me as a documentation of a wild teenage vacation across country and through California at age 16 and changed my life permanently, morphed into an attempt at showing life's bittersweet ride on the road to acceptance that our humanity is all we can embrace regardless of whatever technology we can muster.

In "Only Moments" I started with the middle section as I wanted to record those experiences for posterity and it was an experience that changed my life and outlook on the world at a very young age of 16. Then without knowing where I was going, I realized that I had to create a climax in the future for my characters and began the futuristic conclusion and then went back and wrote the beginning that leads to middle. Once that was done, I rewrote the entire book. Originally I had the beginning in the third person, the 1970's and forward in the first person, and then the climax back to the third and conclusion of the book in the first person as a symbolic device to show that the main character was living in the past, then went back to his roots in the flashbacks, came back to 2020 and his same situation, and then evolves to becoming a new reborn soul, hence the migration back to the first person or a rediscovery. Unfortunately, no one got it, so I rewrote the whole thing in first person. Whew, I get dizzy just thinking about it.

My influential authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Ken Kesey, Henry Miller, Joseph Campbell, the triple "H"s Herman Hesse, Martin Heidegger, Ernest Hemingway, and my personal favorite is Dalton Trumbo. I don't strive to emulate anyone. I think it is a process that develops like DNA through the generations. Their work is imprinted upon my consciousness and it seeps through my thought process as I write.

I love double meanings and triple ones really excite me but I don’t know if people will get it as they read -especially if they read it quickly without thinking about where I’m going with the verbage. It was much like constructing a huge jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces had to fit with the continuity of the events and plot in the puzzle. I is my hope that once a reader gets to the end, they will want to reread it to see what they skimmed over that played important part in the plot. Maybe I’m asking too much, but I do consciously challenge the reader to think and ponder. In that aspect, a writer runs a fine line between confidence and excess egotism. I hope I stand on the former and the humility of the characters kept it grounded to reality. I’ve had one person (and only one) tell me how terrible the writing was; that the words were “fake” and that the book sucked. Now, not only was this a friend….yes a friend-when I asked him exactly how the book “sucked” I got no answer. He commented that the words used were manipulations and “fake.” I then a got a somewhat apologetic diatribe at the end of the letter of how he only wrote words and they mean nothing. Well to tell a writer that words “mean nothing” is paramount to telling a filmmaker that scripts and cameras meaning nothing. So, I consider the somewhat pugilistic attitude he harbors and don’t let that type of rhetoric bother me. I can recall that most of the best writers in American history such as Poe, Herman Melville, and Henry Miller, were panned and sometimes ridiculed. The classic movie “Treasure of Sierra Madre” was panned and lost big money at the box office. “The Terminator” became a cult classic and spawned two sequels after it did very little at the box office as well. I’ve come to conclude that a “success” is a relative indicator that has little to do with what really is. If money is made and mass media takes over, a bomb becomes a blockbuster. If the book appeals to a more specific smaller demographic, it may or may not breakout if word of mouth is strong enough. It’s like the old saying goes, “I can’t tell you what good art is, but I know it when I see it.” Everyone has different takes and tastes. You can’t please them all. I have many other very deep meaningful comments written in detail from very talented people who are total strangers to me, from all over the country, and these I cherish. Criticism is fine when it is constructive. “Your book sucks” is ignorant and demeaning and without intellect. As I responded to him,“If it is that abhorrent to you, put it down and stop reading it.” I haven’t heard from him since. I mean, I do understand the other side of the situation. I have read Faulkner, but I do not like reading him but I would never ever demean this man’s incredible works or that of Steven Hawking, or Albert Einstein (whom I love to read but most others might find boring). I love reading non-fiction but sometimes no matter how good the writing is it may not be my “cup of tea.” I still respect the writing, period. Don’t get caught up in the game. Just be true to yourself and balance it with humility.

Now a word about Publish on Demand and the place it is beginning to carve into the formerly exclusive literary world. Because of the perceived and actual problems it has been difficult to get reviewed because of the Publish On Demand stigmata. Many books that should have never been published are being published and listed on internet sellers sites such as Amazon.com. The floodgates are open and there is money to be made convincing would be talented and non-talented people that they too, can be published and have that shot at Oprah’s Book of the Month Club. There is a huge debate throughout the industry and my opinion is the harsh criticism from most websites exclusively created to promote the self-interests of the owner of that site, it a bit unwarranted. Yes there are some POD’s that are taking one’s money and publishing garbage, (I used a POD but did not pay a cent for it to be published, but they are in some cases as guilty of doing the same) but it is not always the case. These vociferous tirades on the subject are an overreaction of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s face it, the publishing world has always been an exclusive enclave of “country club” mentality and this new wave of POD’s and electronic distribution is a threat to democratize the business and the publishing business has been in trouble for many years. If JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series had been published by a POD, would the validity of the writing be in question? Does the way something is brought to print affect the quality of the work? I think it is a transition from the old to the new and in the process there is pain, stupidity, and competitiveness that obscures the art for its own sake. If the stories hold up, and the literary quality is there then it should not matter. I am proud to have a book that I hope turns the lights on in a room and I can only hope that those who read it see things they haven’t before. Maybe I’m nuts, maybe my book really does “suck.” For these and other questions the jury is still out. However, I will leave the arguing over the particular way it is brought to the public to others. Do you really care who publishes a book you cherish? Do you even look for a label or know which business entity it is? Does it matter if it says Doubleday, Bantam, Lulu, Mcgraw-Hill, Penguin, Publish America, or Houghton-Milflin?

Remember, it’s about money and unless you are a celebrity or a murderer or both, you have little chance of a major publisher signing you unless you are a proven commodity. Sometimes the difference between a panned novel and a successful one is sales. Money talks and however others try to disembowel you and your book, the sales of it are all that counts in many aspects. A lot of people think Donald Trump is obnoxious and classless. Do you think he cares? Trust me. I worked for him and he doesn’t care about what anybody thinks about him, he just never gives up and makes money.

Top all of the above with the massive amount of books being produced right now and you get the visual of gallons of water trying to pass through a small funnel at once. Many people think that the world needs another book and that their story is totally unique. They expect the world to arrive at their door pounding for every word typed daily without any effort on their part. With the advance of self-publishing and computers the market is flooded with those who think they will be invited to be on Oprah next week. Humility is a virtue usually as one looks in the past. I spent years coming very close to the publication of this book through the Irene Rodgers Literary Company, but as close as it was, it didn’t get published. I eventually put it on hold for years until I was motivated to attempt it once more. After a near-death experience in October of 2004, I became hell-bent to get it published.

I must have gone through 300 query letters before a major agent like Irene decided to represent me. It is almost a foregone conclusion that without an agent, you will never get into the major publishers. The market is much too tight and the amount of submissions are massive. Every person in the world thinks that they can tell their life story and with the technology today, everyone can. You are part of 3 billion + people in this world. Do the percentages. One percent of 3 billion is 30 million, one tenth of that is 3 million and one tenth of that is 300,000 and that is roughly how many books get published each year. That means you have a slim of a chance to be a part of 300,000 books that are for sale. The odds are much higher for it to become a best seller, if it gets on a shelf. Multiply that by a factor of maybe 20 if it is self-published or internet based. So, take a moment and think about that. That’s a sobering thought! So don’t get your hopes up or your expectations too high. On the other hand, do it for you! That’s who counts anyway. You did it, you accomplished an incredible thing. Don’t downplay it because you aren’t on Oprah, or the movie of the week isn’t based on your book. Life is about the little things. Enjoy them and be proud! Smell the roses.

One great thing is that I have met many great people who are willing to give of themselves without strings attached. The book is new; my immersion into this world is new so any help is always appreciated. One never stops learning and one thing leads to the next, and so on. I have other things on my plate as my restaurant Wyatt’s (www.wyattsdininghall.com) trying to find time to market both the book and the restaurant, time for working the stock market every day from 6am to 1pm Monday through Friday, time to write the next book on my near death experience, and finally getting time to do the audio book for both. Dorothy Thompson has been a key person that I met through another author of the book "The Art of the Business Lunch," (Robin Jay - The Art of The Business Lunch - Buy the Book) Robin Jay, with whom we shared a webmaster, Arlene the owner of AMD Webdesign.( AMB Web Design) I had already contracted a high image public relations company and in retrospect spent far too much money for their services. I got a few radio interviews that resulted in not one hit on my website and neither did I get one book review, not a one. I have learned much about the saturation of books on the market and the prejudices that abound in this industry. I wish that I had met Dorothy Thompson and her “Pump Up Your Book Promotion” a few months earlier. She is a tireless promoter who goes beyond any other person I know to ensure that her authors are taken care in all aspects of her business. She is under appreciated and overworked and deserves much more recognition than she currently receives.

The Backstory that I placed on my website for the novel (www.onlymomentsbook.com) is as intriguing as the novel itself. Much like the character Chris, I came back with a different understanding and as I fought to come back to the living, the transition left me with a totally changed perspective. It was my life imitating my own art.

In short, I recovered, although my left leg is still disabled from nerve damage that is more than likely permanent, I moved on with a new determination to get this book published among other things. This non-fictional subject matter will be the basis for my next book, to share the incredible things I’ve been through with my near death experience and how it showed me that the things I believed in, the core of my beliefs, were really right in line with what I went through. This reinforcement of my life’s search renewed the vigor of discovery within me and regardless of the medical problems that I face daily, I live life knowing what is to come and unafraid of death.

Many people avoid wanting to talk with me about it. I think their religious beliefs or perhaps their own disbelief of anything metaphysical keeps them from wanting to hear the experience. It is almost as if it is a threat to their perceived "blanket of security" that their faith and/or lifestyle keeps them from being open minded to other possibilities of life after death. It is not just strangers and friends, it extends to my own family. No one wants their applecart upset.

I live everyday to the fullest with no regrets. Passion is what brought me to learn the things I’ve learned and my life’s experiences is all that I have. I’ve been to the other side and I know it is this life that counts. Come what may, passion is the key for anything one does so whatever I’m doing I’m doing to make myself happy, to create self-love-the hardest love of all. Let them talk about me when I’m dead, I’m living each day, each second happy that I’m who I am, where I am, what I am.

To get back to the book, the wonderful experience of love in many forms is central to book's core. Self-love is just as important as the love we have for others and whomever that "special" person is. The message is live your life to the fullest everyday! Don't expect life to treat you kindly and the "road" will be bumpy with potholes and dangerous curves, but it will take you places you have never been as long as you stay on it and that is the important part. Stay on it! Don't give up no matter what. Death is over-rated and the other side is an eternity. I know. I was there. Stay awhile and let time heal and be good to yourself and as the love of Chris' life tells him to remember that "Love is all there is. Never lose that gift."

“To receive the grace of God, one’s hands must be opened upwards.”
-A loosely interpreted saying attributed to many prophets and spiritual people of different faiths including St. Augustine

“May the four winds blow you safely home.”
-The Grateful Dead

Nick Oliva
Author, “Only Moments”
http://www.onlymomentsbook.com/


2 comments:

Laticia said...

Oprah's 4 interviews with Jill Bolte Taylor were the first that Oprah did after Eckhart Tolle and they take everything Tolle talks about to another level. Oprah's copy of Jill's book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, was dog-eared and all marked up and kept reading from it the way she read from A New Earth and recommended it highly.

Oprah's recommendation was enough for me. I read My Stroke of Insight and I loved it too. This story is as inspiring as The Last Lecture or Tuesdays with Morrie - and even better, it has a Happy Ending!

I bought the book on Amazon because they have it for 40% off retail and they also had an amazing interview with Dr Taylor that I haven't seen anywhere else - Here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/My-Stroke-Insight-Scientists-Personal/dp/0670020745/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211471755&sr=1-2

Blovis said...

I read "My Stroke of Insight" in one sitting - I couldn't put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it's a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her TED.com speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I've ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.

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