Wednesday, March 18, 2015

abreast of publication

The first book I read that was written by Stephen King was On Writing, his memoir/guide to becoming a writer. In some ways it reminded me of an anecdote attributed to John D. Rockefeller. A reporter is said to have asked the oil tycoon if he had any advice for someone looking to be as successful as he was. Rockefeller's answer was, wake up early every morning, work very hard all day, and strike oil. Reading the part of On Writing where Mr. King landed a six digit payment for the paperback rights to Carrie made me think of Mr. Rockefeller's quip.

Every day I read how the trend is for established writers to see less and less money for their work while being given the assignment of becoming their own side show barkers. Stephen King admits he was lucky enough to be in on the tail end of the golden age, where publishing was lavish and exciting, before self publishing and e-readers ruined it all. Just imagine the reclusive J.D. Salinger having to go on a book tour to promote his works, or trying to read the blog of William Faulkner. The times they are a chainging.

So how is a new writer like myself supposed to recapture the feeling of that golden age Stephen King wrote about? Maybe the answer is found by retracing the steps of Mr. King as described in his book. Since my mother does not smoke, I don't think I'll be able to recreate the scene where he and his brother take turns helping their mom hold a cigarette to her lips as she lay dying from cancer. Likewise I am not inclined to become a janitor and stare in wonder at the feminine product garbage can that was the inspiration for Carrie. There is one avenue of his, however, I thought suited me well.

Stephen King used to write short stories for Men's magazines. As a matter of fact, here's a copy of one of his first appearances. These were pages filled with nudes that were pale comparisons to the king-of-the-hill Playboy magazine. Not that glamorous or soaked with prestige, they did turn out to be fertile ground for him to practice his craft. Pennies on the word and copies of the magazine to sell on his own was his payment, a humble beginning for a great American writer. King admits in his book that such magazines are no longer in abundant supply, one of the reasons the golden age is over. Nudity drips out of the internet every day and as a culture we seem to have forgotten how to read, mostly.

Still, there are a few unique publications out there, and I found one of the greats of the genre. Bachelor Pad Magazine  pays tribute to the pre-Playboy era of men's magazines. Published quarterly, it focuses on the atomic age, busty women, tiki drinks, and playful semi-nudity. I submitted a story with a gangster theme that got rejected. As the publisher said, he had enough guy with a gun walks into a bar stuff. Then he asked what else I had. After I looked a little closer at his magazine, I wrote something just for it. Turns out, it was a pretty good fit and it just got published!

I'm sure Stephen King checks out my blog as soon as it's published, so let me offer a brief apology if I came off being cynical or otherwise disingenuous. He struck oil, a lot of it, but he also worked very hard every day. His is a good lesson for anyone wanting to achieve. But I would be remiss if I did not thank the true heroes that help creative writers get their start, women willing to take their clothes off for the camera. We owe a lot to you, and your skin.