Sunday, July 8, 2012

You Wrote A Book? You? Justin Bog?

There have been a few strange and funny reactions to the news that I published a book, Sandcastle and Other Stories -- finally. I know my friends are happy for me, family too. If you're following my life writing, I grew up in a family that usually doesn't praise good news. We move onto something more worthwhile to speak about when together, like the state of the world, the evening news report, eschewing graciousness like pros. 

I don't take this personally -- it's a stolid Midwestern trait; don't toot your own horn, and don't express any emotion when someone does toot his or her horn. Boy, am I guilty of that now. I've toyed with the idea of constructing a sandwich-board sign so I can walk the downtown Seattle streets on weekends with the words, in all caps, saying: BUY MY COOL BOOK -- don't think I haven't thought about it more than once. Maybe I could write off the expense, add a bell to ring. It is what it is. But, WHOA, my little brother, for the first time I can recall, wrote me an email saying what a great accomplishment the book is. Loved that. Goes into the saved email folder. Yin and yang. 

My father, who is the artist who created the painting the Sandcastle and Other Stories book cover art is taken from, couldn't even see the book because he has a Nook, but he was really happy; he is my number one creative influence, and he understands all the long hours that go into creating a work that someone will look at for a second -- read in my case (or not) -- and form a quick opinion, good or bad, and then keep on moving to the next bright and shiny bauble. 

Usually people love to share negative thoughts more than positive. Why is that?

Thank you, Kelly, for giving me a space on your blog to speak about writing, my writing life, Sandcastle and Other Stories, and the reactions people have to the news. I love this saying: If you want to clear a room, a French cafe, or a crowded beach, yell: "I've got a manuscript!"

I've said this before on my own blog: it's hard to get someone to read short fiction. Most people, readers, wouldn't think about choosing a collection of short stories to read; to them the novel rules. Time to read must be found too, and in this busier Social Media world, fewer and fewer people sit down to read books.

One of the first people I told, one of my closest family friends, even said this to me the next split second, putting my news off immediately, when I was calling to tell her about Sandcastle and Other Stories finally being available at Amazon. The first response to my happy news was, "I'm also getting my photographs ready to go to form my own book this Summer. It'll be a collection of the best floral photos from my blog paired with great quotes. Isn't that wonderful?"

"Yes, that's terrific."

She went on, "I can't wait to get this book out." Now she was completely oblivious to the fact that I had just called and said, hey, I just published my first ebook.
I steered the conversation back, "It took a lot of time to get Sandcastle and Other Stories out, get all the behind-the-scenes things like formatting, book cover, final copyediting run-throughs finished."

"Well, you know, Justin, I don't like reading short stories." All I thought was: Thank you for being a friend. And that song played in my head all day.

I listened some more and nodded and hung up with the dazed expression of the blindsided. I have longtime friends through Twitter, Facebook, Triberr, who have never replied a word about it either -- too busy. Everyone is on a separate journey, and I don't take it personally, even if I'm sharing these quirky response stories here -- I'm a follower of The Four Agreements, its philosophy, a book I recommend to everyone. 

I do get wonderful reactions as well. A tennis mate just told me he finished reading the stories. He only reads the classics, is on a Sinclair Lewis binge presently, but he took the time to read the ten tales. He said, "The short story Sandcastle..." ~then he mimed a WHOA~ "Your writing has a good cadence."

The other funny reaction came from a couple who I met not too long ago, from Southern California. Steve, took a photo of his wife, Sharon, in a nice nightgown (all proper!), holding up her kindle; her shocked expression was hilarious. The photo caption: Reading the end of Sandcastle.

The best to you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the tales if you end up reading them. I highly recommend them. If you have your own stories out, please let me know so that I can congratulate you; just point me in the right direction, but, please, don't tell me on a beach or in a Paris cafe.

Find me on Twitter @JustinBog 

Visit my blog at

Buy Sandcastle and Other Stories at Amazon by clicking here.


JustinBog said...

Hey, Kelly, thank you very much for allowing me to blather all over your posh place. I can't wait to read your books. It does take so long to bring work out for public consumption, but it's the writing life for us :-)

Christa said...

My apologies. Sometimes, Justin, we reflect back to each other what we can't see in ourselves. I know it's not the first time I've disappointed you... Hopefully, it will all work out well in the end.


Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks for the post, Justin!

JustinBog said...

No worries, Christa. It's all good. We are leading separate paths. As a writer, don't you find reactions the most interesting to observe? You hardly disappointed me (or disappoint). I know you are happy for me, and I love that you are here commenting too. xo always, Justin

P.S. It's what happens when two friends have equally good news to share. Fun.

Melissa Craig Erotic Author said...

Great post Justin and of course congratulations again. I have to mention the you tube clip everyone should check out as well. Even though I haven't read it yet I will babe before you come on our podcast... I can't wait to read it and short stories rock.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I agree, Melissa--short stories rock. It's a talent that not all writers have, and Justin definitely can write a short story!

Lorca Damon said...

True, Kelly. Too many short stories don't develop the characters enough to help the plot make sense. Justin's storytelling has the right amount of backstory without infodumping, but also without leaving us thoroughly confused.

JustinBog said...

You are perfect, Melissa, and thank you too for the future podcast invite. I don't mind waiting until you have an opening. Esquire listed two short story collections #1 Raymond Carver's What We Talk About ... and #2 John Cheever's Collected Stories, right at the top of the 75 novels all men should read. It's a great list, but I think it's a list that most women would enjoy as well. Does Esquire really still only cater to men? Yikes. But the rest of the list is varied, and short fiction is a major part of the list.

JustinBog said...

Lorca, your comment hit me well today and I thank you very much. I love creating a tight short story, reaching an epiphany for a given action any of them may take.

Rachel Thompson said...

It's so important to be truthful in our dealings with others. Thank you Justin for your honesty -- as writers, we tend to be the sensitive types. I too am a huge believe in The Four Agreements and I love that your interaction with your friend continued here. Proud of you for being the wonderful man you are and for sharing what many other writers often feel -- that we're just not being heard (or read). :) xo

Jessica Kristie said...

JBo - I think I started writing a post about my disappointment regarding others reactions with my news about a 100 time and never posted it. I love your honesty here and have been through many similar situations (its just poetry!). I am glad you don't take it personally and move on. Yes, so many of us are on our own journeys but if we can't share in each others success and excitement, it seems to take away a little. It is good to slow down and acknowledge the wonderful things people are doing around us.
Love all you do Justin and will be done reading your lovely collection soon. xoxo

Cathy said...

Doesn't everyone have good days bad days with this subject? Does sunshine make sense without shade? Not having published a book, I can only fall back on telling my grandma I was going to get married. 'Oh!' she said. 'I've just been so moved.' I thought the syntax was a bit odd, but I went with it. 'Yes,' she said. 'My pottery class for the blind has been featured on the local news.' Ah me.

Who knows what everyone carries around with them. I know that most people perceive me in a way which is only partly accurate. I try not to burden friends with things I find difficult in life. So it's not surprising.

What I mean is, and I'm sure you know this, even people who should be, or are, pleased for you, may be battling inner frailties :-(

For a while I was a successful journalist on prestigious newspapers. And I know lots of people simply weren't pleased for me. They felt threatened. When that all came to an end, those same people celebrated. :-(

We can't always be the people that we want to be.

Justin, I am big fan of your writing as you know. FWIW I feel inspired by your success, your energy and your drive. It's like you're putting out a template that I can adapt to my own circumstances. So, even purely selfishly, I thank you.

Cathy x

JustinBog said...

Jessica is a major poet, people. I am floored by her two books of collected poems, and will be writing a recommendation for her latest Threads of Life for In Classic Style. The strange reactions any creative artist receives from friends and family can be off-putting, but they do care. I never thought about all of the reactions that took place over two months ago now until sitting down to write about the subject, and then they all came back. It's life, and life writing. People are so different and that makes each and every one of us interesting. We each have a story to tell.

JustinBog said...

Cathy, your responses are always so real, and honest -- the best kind of inquisitive mind you have. I would love to read your work-in-progress novel, and be first in line to do so -- I can't wait. Your grandma's pottery must be something special ;-)

No one can truly know another person, even if they live together for fifty years. There are roles each person plays. But if a couple is together, the hope is for a long-lasting love. Perception and giving people the benefit of the doubt is key. Broken record here, but I try to get to the point where I don't take anything personally anymore. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I don't control anyone else's actions.

I love what you said about not trying to burden friends with things you find difficult in life. Your line made me ROFL: "So, even purely selfishly, I thank you." -- that slays me. And how people are battling their own inner frailties. I love to write about that inner struggle, and some of the stories in Sandcastle and Other Stories are all about the inner struggle a character can or cannot reveal.

You are a wonderful friend, Cathy. (Subscribe to Cathy's blog peeps.)

And also subscribe to Kelly's blog here. Thank you everyone for reading and commenting.

JustinBog said...

With permission: Cathy's blog is

Amberr Meadows said...

Justin, just keep being positive and wonderful. Short stories are still important. Look at Stephen King. I think you are on to something brilliant. ooxx

M. E. Franco said...

I love short stories Justin. I don't have a lot of time to read, so I admit my attention span isn't as long as it should be. I love short stories because I can usually read the whole thing in one sitting.

Feel free to toot your own horn. Writing a book is a major accomplishment. Kudos my friend!

Eden Baylee said...

The short story is far from dead in my opinion, especially the way you write, Justin. You have an incredible way of building plot, suspense and character in a short. Good writing ultimately transcends genre, and I think most people would prefer to read a great short than a bad full length novel.

Great post, hon, you deserve every success.

JustinBog said...

Hey, Rachel, thank you for being here. I also thank you for your continuing kindness and thoughtfulness. Writers are very sensitive creatures. Friendships have ups and downs, and the good ones are always exciting and interesting. What people say in situations is really important, and I try to listen to dialogue that speaks to me. Cathy, below spoke of the inner frailties we all try to hide from one another, and I love that too. Cool.

JustinBog said...

Oh, boy, shenanigans with the comment section. This is my second attempt to write a reply to you Rachel. The first touched on the inner frailty (Cathy's words below) we all try to cover up at times, show a brave front. I love what you say, that writers tend to be the sensitive types. Being open, honest, and up front is the way I roll, but not many of my characters feel that way. Best always, Justin

JustinBog said...

Amber, you always know what to say to cheer me up. Truly a gift. I hope you are doing well and staying cool this summer. I love reading your blog, seeing where your travels take you each day. Blog posts are short stories. They also must be engaging, tell a story, sometimes surprise and shock. Love that. Couldn't agree more about the short story form. best to you and yours, Justin

JustinBog said...

Toot TOOT ;-)

Do you hear that M.E.? Love to you and your own writing life wishes for success on this path we are choosing. Being a creative is an up and down journey, and talking to friends and family about "success" or a positive thing that may or may not deserve a congratulations, is, in my experience, not always a great and shiny fair ribbon. I forgot to mention my own little sister in the post. I know she really cares as well, but when I first called and spoke to her she was in a pet store and couldn't be bothered . . . when we next spoke, she was less busy (and I would be too distracted with Kipling in a pet store) and we laughed about it. Expectations are really a bugaboo. And taking what others do or say personally isn't always helpful either. It's a nice lesson in theory. Thank you for your kindness.

JustinBog said...

I couldn't agree more Eden. The short story form is thriving under the new eBook publishing model. The novella has also been given new life. Prices are going down. Your books of stories are phenomenal. In every artistic endeavor, from time to time, people proclaim that the art is dead. Painting is dead, was a theme of one of the series my father painted in the 60s . . . modern dance is dead (No, look at the changing variety of dance and dancers), short fiction is dying . . . not really. Maybe that reader just simply stopped reading short stories because a reality show caught his eye.
thank you :-)

Cindy Brown said...

I never count on my friends and family to be my supporters. Very few of them comment or share, as you've said. I've actually found it more exciting that strangers enjoy my work and appreciate it. They don't know me from Adam, so they are better critics. My family and friends are sometimes too personally involved and know me too intimately to be objective.

I read people's work and comment as often as I can. I probably read over 100 blogs a week. Great friendships are made, I learn a lot, and the community here is just like an extended family. I think we've all had those experiences, Justin. In my family, I am not the first writer, I am actually the fourth. My step-sister, cousin, and step-niece all have books, so there's no big woo factor. Until I kick their butts with sales when MY book comes out, that is, LOL!

JustinBog said...

Your comment was a breath of fresh air, Cindy. In the now. I probably didn't do myself any favors by writing about something that happened over two months ago -- I hope for forgiveness for any imprudent lapse on my part -- good family and friends know my heart is in the right place.

This is only my second attempt at life writing, and the nemesis, bully from my childhood I wrote about in an early post, hasn't found me yet. When Sandcastle was published, I only had one chance to share good news, and the dozens of reactions were interesting and strange and that's all I wanted to convey. I forgot about these reactions, life moves on, until the subject I was supposed to write about came up. I don't love dwelling on the past so I only wrote the anecdotes as an example of what sometimes happens -- from reading the comments, I can tell I'm not alone. Aren't we all very sensitive creatures?

More good news: Sharon gave me permission to use the wonderful photo I spoke about in a future blog post -- it's hilarious and so kind of her.

It's hard not to take something personally (I keep saying that) especially from family and friends we naturally respect. Friends and family let each of us down at times, but we love them just the same. I would also love to hear stories about being in a family with four writers. That would make for interesting moments, I'm sure.

Life writing, revealing moments of our lives in raw and honest fashion, is a good thing because it's the hurt we remember first (at least that's how my mind works), and a way to move forward as well. Stay true to yourself. I hope your books kick up the charts as well Cindy.

moonduster said...

I love your short stories, Justin, and I know that sometimes people are a little too wrapped up in their own world to really listen to what you are saying, but I am sure she didn't mean to come off as not really listening or being interested in your good news. I am very happy for your good news!

JustinBog said...

True, moonduster, and I didn't take anything personally way back in May. I found any reaction interesting -- At the very moment it was a little bewildering, but then I went to lunch and probably twenty other chores that day, and events fade into the past -- now, it is only an anecdote about how different people respond to good news. As a writer I'm always trying to figure out why we say and do the things we do, so that I can incorporate that into my fiction. There weren't any hurt feelings going forward. Reactions run the gamut. Take the good with the bad and move on.